Creative's ALchemy software for older games translates the games' DirectSound output into OpenAL. Having to use ALchemy is a minor annoyance, but absent some compelling reason to switch to Vista, it's one that most gamers would rather avoid.
Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research, says that he isn't surprised to see many people still choosing Windows XP over Vista.
"Microsoft's competition is always what their last operating system revision was," he says. "And in this case, XP was pretty good."
Gartenberg doesn't see the same kind of "burning drive" to upgrade from XP that many people had when upgrading from Windows Me, for instance. He notes that people lined up to buy XP; but now, "consumers and businesses have learned to be a little hesitant about adopting new products."
Vista SP1 Is Coming
And businesses are understandably hesitant. Vista's improved security and other features could be a boon to business, but IT staffs that have spent the past six years smoothing out an XP network and training users are loath to consider upgrading to a new OS before it has had much time to settle.
"Any number of people are saying, 'Wait for SP1,'" Gartenberg points out.
Dell officials echo that observation. "We're hearing that from our customers today--that they're waiting for SP1 as a signal of code stability," Dell's Pearcy says. "That's historically very much in line with what has happened in every major OS transition."
But such waiting now has an end date, since Microsoft announced that it will release a final SP1 for Vista in the first quarter of 2008. That will follow a September release of an SP1 beta, giving on-the-ball companies time to test its many compatibility and performance fixes.
According to Microsoft's overview document for the SP1 beta, Vista's first service pack will offer improvements for security, reliability, and performance, and more support for emerging hardware and standards. In addition, the company will continue to introduce drivers to support more devices, bumping Vista's count from 1.7 million in January 2008 to 2.2 million in July. But SP1 "does not deliver substantial new operating system features," according to the document.
BitLocker Drive Encryption will receive an upgrade, and security companies will get long-awaited programming interfaces to work with the 64-bit version's kernel patch protection. Microsoft also says that SP1 will boost reliability on systems upgraded to Vista from XP, and that it will offer better compatibility with printer drivers.