Saturday, April 12, 2008

Windows ISN'T Collapsing

So the big news is that some over-paid analysts are telling us that Windows is collapsing.

Not so. The answer is pretty simple; if Windows' was THAT much of a disaster, people would be buying A LOT more Macs then they are. They are not, and it proves that the value of an OS, for most, is determined by what it can do, not so much in terms of OS features but in what software is available for it. It's why OS/2 Warp and Geoworks Ensemble went the way of the Dodo bird.
A poster on the Ars Technica forum put it well:
"There's no real alternative for a PC based OS, so it is not collapsing. Every time someone tries to come up with an alternative, they just end up making another version of crappy linux. Not everyone is going to run to Apple."

Backwards-compatibility is the selling point that trumps new features. I find it interesting that these analysts never tell us WHAT Vista should have been, only that it was lacking.

While Microsoft did have to reset the code base during the development of Vista, they actually took a risk and DID IN FACT impinge upon the all-sacred backwards-compatibility somewhat by introducing UAC and Virtualization. Even at that, Microsoft wrote hundreds of "shims" to ensure maximum compatibility even in this scenario. And look where it got them... the uninformed among us are calling Windows a disaster for the simple reason that it chokes on the software and printer drivers they have had laying around for two years. So real glitches with Vista don't get the spotlight they need, such as WEP adapter/router issues, file copy speeds, and ZIP extraction speeds.

The ultimate villain is.... the consumer. The level of vitriol you get from people when they are told the new OS won't support there old software and drivers and they are going to have to spend $$$ to get things working right is ridiculous. They try to blame Microsoft when Microsoft was simply trying to make a substantial improvement re: security. And, after all, is that what the customer paid for? A new OS with substantial improvement?

The consumer is the ultimate villain in a another way, too. For the entire reign of XP, consumers have griped and moaned about Windows lack of security. It has been the single biggest tarnish on Windows' reputation. Microsoft actually DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT in Vista and consumers whine and cry about the side effects.

People complained the first few years of XP, too, but that is all but forgotten in the now-is-too-late world of personal computing. So yet we see a THIRD WAY in which the consumer is the ultimate villain. Microsoft releases XP SP2 to more-or-less critical acclaim and gives us all time to breathe and spend the next THREE YEARS running one of the best versions of Windows to ever exist. The consumer gets spoiled and as a result, no new version of Windows would have made them happy. But if Microsoft had released Vista in 2005, they would have still taken flak. Darned if they do, darned if they don't.

A new OS isn't a glorious occasion, no matter how much the marketing people say otherwise. It is a changing of the guard and a new way of thinking.

What really leaves me dumbfounded is the number of people who claim to be "technically savvy" putting down Vista and assuring us they are going to keep XP for a few more years. Anyone who made the transition from Win9x to WinXP should know and understand the stakes moving from XP to Vista, and be able to vet the software/driver config on their system. While it may not make sense for Granny to upgrade, if you are a technical person running Windows- I am going to go ahead and say it- you are a wimp if you are not at least WILLING to go to Vista. Now.

At the core of the issue is the fact that a desktop OS has to be jack-of-all-trades. It has to fit in a corporate environment, and it has to play games and manage photos at home. It has to expose enough functionality to satisfy the tweakers and techies, while being intuitive enough to be used by Joe Six-pack. It has to run on budget boxes, and high end gaming rigs. Windows does pretty well, all things considered.

Part of the problem are the programmers themselves. Unfortunately, programmers write for operating systems, not platforms. They have been writing for Windows XP, not the Windows platform. They take their shortcuts to get it to work on the target OS and think Vista is stupid for breaking their code, when Microsoft has been basically telling them how to write Vista compatible apps for YEARS- if they would only follow Microsoft's guidelines.

For this reason, if you are running Vista, ONLY install software and hardware that specifically says it is Vista compatible. Oh, and if the instruction booklet says you have to turn off UAC for the program to work, IT ISN'T VISTA COMPATIBLE, no matter how much that company says it is. Run, don't walk, from that company's products, because their programming team is criminally ignorant.

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