One Expensive Dog?

By Goodwin Ginger

Some of you may have read todays Globe coverage of Microsoft’s launch of their new operating system Vista. Apparently sales are but a trickle. The Globe cites increasing competition from Linux and online programs along with the ability to purchase Vista online as the main reasons for its poor showing in stores. These factors may all be true but we think there are other reasons why Vista is finding few early adopters.


First, the main benefit of switching to Vista at this stage in the game are the new visual effects: eye candy. Interestingly, both Mac and Linux users will have been using most of the visual enhancements contained in Vista for some time now. Microsoft may be a victim of its own success: i.e., the dummying down of user expectations when it comes to the aesthetics of their desktop environment. Indeed, windows users are, by now, so use to the general aesthetic malaise of both their vanilla PC boxes and their desktop environment that those who have higher aesthetic standards will already be a Mac owner or the owner of a custom Linux PC.


Yet there are other reasons outside of aesthetics that we can expect that Vista will only be adopted slowly. The onerous hardware requirements needed to take advantage of all the visual and functional improvements in Vista mean that for most consumers Vista will have to wait until their next PC purchase when they will most likely receive a copy of Vista included in their bundle.


Moreover, there is a confusing array of choices when it comes to Vista with 4 different versions (8 if you include upgrade and full versions) all presenting the consumer with a different level functionality and features. Indeed, the entry level version of the operating system (OS) does not come with any of the visual enhancements; none of the system and data recovery features; none of the home entertainment integration; nor the capacity to make and burn DVDs. In short, all the features one would be looking to improve upon from their XP home and Pro operating systems. In fact, a quick review of the different versions of Vista reveals that it is only the Business and Ultimate editions that contain the features that most consumers would be looking to most improve upon from their XP OS experience. With the Premium Edition Upgrade running at $299.00 cdn this is a fair chunk of change for a couple of new features and some eye candy (note, some of these features can be had for free e.g. Google Desktop search and others from third party vendors).


The other draw back to this OS is that between Microsoft’s paranoia around ensuring only valid copies of their products are in use combined with the new digital rights management regime (DRM), to which MS has whole heartedly supported by deeply embedding (DRM) in its OS, Vista is a virtual lock-down of your hardware and content. To be sure if you are not pirating software and HD content this will be less of a problem but it is not just nefarious users who will be inconvenienced (indeed they get work-arounds in pretty short order). Backing up a copy of your children’s favorite DVD is going to be a big pain the arse, not to mention the absurdity of having to fight with MS should you decide in the future to upgrade key hardware components of your PC. In short, it is the law abiding consumers (albeit abiding by absurd laws many of which are untested in the courts) who are going to be most inconvenienced by all this intellectual property rights enforcement masquerading as “security.”


Lastly, the main reason perhaps sales of Vista are bombing on its debut is that early adopters tend to be tech savvy consumers looking for real performance enhancements, and visuals aside, Vista is a lazy dog compared to XP Pro. If you do not believe us just check out these performance comparison charts over at Toms hardware guide. Why would you pay more for an OS that actually slows down the performance of you PC?


For all these reasons I am going to stay with windows 2000 pro on my server and XP on my laptop both of which are already running Linux OSs to boot. Indeed, if Open Office can polish-up their word processing package just a little the days of an MS OS on my PC are limited.