Court Ruling Doesn't Change It: Vista Overpromised, Under-delivered

Microsoft got a split-decision in federal court over whether its early promotion of Vista was a lie. The court decided the issue shouldn't be a class action--which may effectively end the case--but allowed the plaintiffs' to continue their action if they choose.

I don't think there is any question that Microsoft dramatically understated the hardware requirements necessary to run Vista. I also think Vista Home offers so little of the Vista experience, already a dramatically scaled-down version of the Vista promise--that it's fair to say people who run Vista Home aren't running Vista at all. No Aero interface = No Vista.

Microsoft was flat wrong to sell Vista as an operating system upgrade, although with the addition of extra memory and a new video card I have been able to make it run fairly nicely on my old Dell 470 desktop.

With all that out of the way, however, Vista, as it exists today, isn't a bad operating system and if you are buying a new machine that comes with Vista I think you'll like it, once the shock wears off.

That you'd probably be better off with a new machine running Mac OS X is fodder for another posting.

Vista seems intended to bring as much Macintosh to Windows as possible. It partly succeeds and is a better OS as a result. It also does some user interface and feature set tricks all its own and they add value too. Coupled with Office 2007, Vista is a nice place to do office work, though the learning curve can be a little steep.

It's no wonder why so many people remain perfectly happy with Windows XP. I even have a machine that still runs Windows 2000, also a fine operating system.

Sadly, Microsoft seems to not be learning from its Vista experience. Next year's Windows 7 release seems destined to come in almost as many confusing flavors as Vista and Office do today. In trying to make customers may for specific features, Microsoft confuses people and makes them angry.

Some decide not to buy and others are resentful at how Microsoft seems intent on grabbing every dollar possible from its customers. Nothing wrong with this, except that customers hate it and avoid Microsoft as a result.

Microsoft needs to learn from the Vista experience, thusly:

1. Unless you can prove Windows 7 works as a upgrade for large numbers of existing customers (on their existing hardware), don't sell the upgrade through mass distribution.

2. Be extra clear about hardware requirements related to Item 1.

3. No more the three versions of the operating system are acceptable: Fully-featured home, a small business version, and an enterprise version. That's it.

4. Windows 7 appears to require a clean installation, including apps. For upgraders that is a big problem, even though it is the proper way to upgrade. Microsoft needs to include an applet with Windows 7 that runs prior to installation and gathers your settings and serial numbers so you don't have to deal with them when reinstalling apps. Microsoft then needs to package an apps disk with Windows 7 so you can reinstall the apps without having your original disks handy. Maybe they could use this to sell a decently-priced app upgrade along with the OS, like Apple has started doing.

There is no question that Vista has been a huge problem for Microsoft. The company overpromised on both features and upgradeability, but since the initial release Vista has grown to become a very nice OS that I enjoy using. But, sometimes, all isn't well that ends well.

David Coursey recently started using Vista again after months of letting it sit. Add memory and a video card and he's OK with the OS. But still loves his Macs. Write him at david@coursey.com.

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