Why Vista? The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Part 1



Slashdot 
has a decent thread going currently about the blessings and curses of Microsoft’s newest platform, Windows Vista.  Now, as a [basically] impartial blogger (who just happens to make bread off Microsoft technologies) I’m in a position to be critical and to kowtow at the same time.  Make your own judgement about the comments within.
 

You’d be surprised at how many people close to Microsoft (including the technical community at large) give constructive and sometimes even negative feedback to the company. This is not the company it once was, ten years ago.   

That’s why I’m a little surprised at some of the attitude around the Vista launch.  Well, sort of surprised; active community criticism isn’t something new.  Anyhow, I’d like to take some time to dissect some of the myth and commentary surrounding the pros and cons of the new OS. 

This is a multi-post series, today I’m starting by examining the reasons not to migrate to Windows Vista. 

A rebuttal (or agreement) of the 10 Reasons not to Migrate to Vista

 1. You don’t actually need it 

I can’t entirely disagree with this statement.   

You certainly don’t need Vista now.  However, using history as a measuring stick, if you’re an avid Audio/Visual user (XP Media Centre) or you splice movies and digital content, or of you’re a top of the line PC gamer who must have the latest games, or a developer seeking to stay up to date with evolving Microsoft technologies – you’ll want a proper copy of Vista before the end of the year. 

The question: why?  Because, like all things, Windows Vista will become the base standard OS for Microsoft platform technologies.  As the software industry catches up, new products will be written optimized for Vista.  Games will eventually come out requiring DirectX 10.  New software will become rarer for Media Centre systems, and support for the older platforms (Windows 2000 in particular) will start to halt.  Eventually you’ll need to upgrade to stay relevant. 

However, if what you do today on your Windows 2000 or XP (or, heck, your flagging Windows 98 machine) is what you’ll be doing in a year (or more) then you really don’t need to upgrade.  You might need to though, if you needed to replace some hardware – if supporting legacy systems becomes less cost effective than paying the money to get the latest system hardware and software.

 2. Cost $$
 3.
On that note, it’s outrageously overpriced
 4.
Upgrading hardware 

Yes, Vista has a price tag.  Whenever there is a new platform this usually has a cost whether it’s hardware to run it or the actual cost of the OS (or it could be free like some *nix variants).  In any upgrade there is always a cost – even if it’s your time (or someone you pay) it’s going to cost some downtime.

Whether the cost of Vista in dollar terms or otherwise invariably depends on why you are upgrading in the first place.  If Vista presents a value proposition which saves you time or money then maybe it is worth it for you.

Regarding #4, you might be in the market for a hardware upgrade anyway, depending on what you use a computer for.  This is related to my comments on point #1, above.  When your hardware is worn out and starts faulting, you might be in the market anyway.  You need to factor the cost of new hardware against the suitability and lifetime your current equipment has.  If your PC from 2004 running Windows XP is running fine, and Vista doesn’t give you an attractive value proposition, it’s likely you’ll postpone upgrading in the near future.

Looking at the price tag and ruling it out as an option isn’t exactly an accurate way of determining the overall usefulness in upgrading.  You may not want Vista now, you might want it later – and it may be cheaper after the early adopters are done. 

  1. Driver support
  2. Applications that don’t work 

This is really a storm in a teacup.  Ask a *nix platform user how long they wait for drivers for brand new hardware (it’s not a short wait).  Windows users get driver support way faster, and usually those drivers have undergone very thorough testing.  This is even more likely under Vista, since all device drivers must be signed and authorized.   

Driver support, like software (#6), will hit the market within the next six months.  By then, it’s likely that the majority of potential Vista users will have decided, one way or another, to adopt or not.  Then, this point will be moot.   

Early adopters will have to take driver and software support into consideration before upgrading.  It’s likely that those end users in particular will be tech savvy enough to overcome the initial limitations.  Microsoft has done a really good job of getting community technology previews and early release candidates out to software developers to give them as much lead time as possible, so Vista shouldn’t be a big surprise to many vendors.  This all helps the overall process of getting the marketplace up to speed in supporting Vista today. 

  1. It’s a big fat target 

Nothing’s safe from vulnerabilities.  Having said that, at the present time, XP has been more thoroughly patched and secured.  There is no debate on that point.  However, a base XP (SP2) PC does not have some of the new core security features that Vista has built into the operating system (such as UAC, driver prerequisites), which means that over tie Vista will become more secure and stable.

However, today, Vista is far less traveled, and thus remains a question mark.  The only reassuring thought is that the community at large and Microsoft are prepared to react quickly to threats, which they’ve mostly proven in the past to be reliable for. 

  1. UAC 

People seem to love beating up on UAC.  I’ve previously posted about UAC on this blog before.  I’d like to know exactly how many times per session the author has been prompted to confirm an action.  I can’t recall having to confirm a UAC action more than about once per session, and I’ve been using the Vista RTM since November.  Yes, I do use Vista as my base operating system. 

I can’t believe that UAC is anymore annoying than its alternative – spyware detection software and anti-virus products.  If someone can prove me wrong, I’m all ears. 

  1. DRM 

No debate here.  DRM is a byword for inconvenience and constitutes a flawed distrust by copyright holders.  It’s ugly, it’s performance overhead and in Vista it actually punishes the end user – in concert with software based anti-piracy measures which in some cases actually prevents high definition media to be displayed.  If there ever was a better reason for avoiding Vista it’s this abomination. 

  1. The draconian license 

The licensing model requires a more detailed discussion at a later time – I have some very strong views on IP and copyright (in case you hadn’t already discovered) and I’ll do a more detailed post in the next month on the Vista licensing. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 – rebutting the top 10 reasons you should migrate to Windows Vista


About Rob Sanders

IT Professional and TOGAF 9 certified architect with nearly two decades of industry experience, 18 years in commercial software development and 11 years in IT consulting. Check out the "About Rob" page for more information.

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