Waiting for Windows 7: is Vista really that bad?

I was at an event last week where Gareth Hall, UK Product Manager for Windows Server 2008, commented on the product’s fantastic press reviews, with even Jon Honeyball (who it seems is well known for his less-than-complimentary response to Microsoft’s output of late) commenting that:

“Server 2008 excels in just about every area [… and] is certainly ready for prime time. There’s no need to wait for Service Pack 1″

[Jon Honeyball, PC Pro, February 2008]

It seems that, wherever you look, Windows Server 2008 is almost universally acclaimed. And rightly so – I believe that it is a fantastic operating system release (let’s face it, Windows Server 2003 and R2 were very good too) and is packed full of features that have the potential to add significant value to solutions.

So, tell me, why are the same journalists who think Windows Server 2008 is great, still berating Windows Vista – the client version of the same operating system codebase? Sure, Vista is for a different market, Vista has different features, and it’s only fair to say that Vista took some time to bed down, but after more than a year of continuous updates and a major service pack is it really that bad?

This week, IT Week is running a leader on the “migration muddle” that organisations face. Should IT Manager’s skip Vista and go straight to Windows 7, with Bill Gates allegedly saying that “sometime in the next year we will have a new version [of Windows]”?

The short answer is “No!”. My advice is either to move to Vista now and save the pain of trying to jump two or three releases to Windows 7 later, or accept a more pragmatic approach of managed diversity.

The trouble is that Microsoft has muddied the water by dropping hints about what the future may hold. What was once arguably the world’s biggest and best marketing machine seems to have lost its way recently – either maintain the silence and keep us guessing what Windows 7 means, or open up and let us decide whether it’s worth the wait. With the current situation, IT Managers are confused: the press are, by and large, critical of Vista; consumers and early adopters have complained of poor device support (not Microsoft’s fault); and even Microsoft seems ready to forget about pushing their current client operating system and move on to the next big thing.

In all my roles – as a consultant, an infrastructure architect, a Microsoft partner and of course as a blogger, I’d love to know more about Windows 7 – and Microsoft does need to be more transparent if it expects customers to make a decision. Instead, they seem to be hoping that hints of something new that’s not Vista will help to sell Enterprise Agreements (complete with Software Assurance) to corporates.

3 Comments

  • Stu
    Friday 18 April 2008 - 21:31 | Permalink


    I’ve got several problems with Vista.

    1) The hardware requirements (and in particular memory) are only just becoming standard parts of corporate PC purchases. This means that for most organizations it will be three years before their hardware fleet is entirely ready for Vista.
    2) There actually isn’t a lot of business value in Vista. There’s a lot of gimmicks, and a lot of features which are sort of very basic consumer grade. There isn’t actually a compelling reason to move to Vista for most organizations. And no, Aero isn’t a compelling reason.
    3) XP is actually good enough at the moment, and a lot of organizations will take an install one, skip one approach when upgrading to new operating systems. The fact that Vista took so long to ship leaves MS with a problem in that most organizations have already upgraded to XP – they got sick of waiting. Now they’ll skip Vista and go to Windows 7.

  • Friday 18 April 2008 - 22:00 | Permalink


    Stu,
    I understand all of the points that you are making but, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll comment on each one in turn:

    1. With respect, whoever advised your organisation to buy PCs that wouldn’t run the next version of Windows was not thinking strategically. Even if the decision to buy PCs that would be considered underpowered before they reached end of life was a tactical one, as you highlight in point 2, Aero is not a compelling reason to upgrade – so you can make do with standard graphics. I have 5-year-old Pentium 4s here that will have no trouble with Vista, given enough RAM. And RAM is cheap right now (I recently paid under £75 for 4GB of memory and if you were buying in a large enough volume you should be able to get it for less). Finally, if you are on a 3-year purchase cycle, Vista has been released to corporates for 17 months now, so it shouldn’t be another 3 years before all the PCs are up to scratch – provided your purchasing people were looking ahead.
    2. I agree that the business case for a wholesale upgrade is shaky but there are cases where there are specific business requirements that require Vista – that’s why I suggested managed diversity is a more pragmatic approach. And what makes you think that the business case for Windows 7 will be any stronger? IMHO, the days of wholesale upgrades are numbered. As for the point that many of the features are basic consumer gimmicks – those aren’t the real features. The real stuff is under the covers – improved security for starters.
    3. Install one, skip one, has been a problem (for Microsoft) for a while now. I was quoted in the press a few years back saying that Windows 2000 was still popular because of that approach. (Ironically, I said it was because people were waiting for Longhorn!) XP may well be “good enough” but you won’t be able to buy it soon. Even leaving that aside and returning to the security issue for a moment – XP has lousy support for running as a non-administrator.

    I can’t believe that I’m defending Windows Vista – after all, it’s not so long ago that I was deriding Microsoft for taking so long to ship another service pack for XP (and I still can’t see why it’s taking so long) but as I said above “it’s only fair to say that Vista took some time to bed down, but after more than a year of continuous updates and a major service pack is it really that bad?” Bad enough to leave it altogether and skip to the next version? Basically, the press have been critical of Vista since, well, since it was delayed – and mud sticks. The same hacks are lauding Windows Server 2008 as a great server release (it is), so isn’t it about time to cut the client side operating system that shares the same codebase some slack?

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  • Sunday 20 April 2008 - 10:41 | Permalink


    Tim Anderson kindly linked to this post – and made an interesting observation in his article:

    “Server 2008 delivers new features that customers wanted, whereas Vista delivers new features that Microsoft thought its customers should want.”

    Sometimes I feel sorry for Microsoft. On the one hand, they get criticised for a perceived lack of innovation, yet if they do something different then they are seen to be forcing features on people. It must be tough on top.

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