Vista SP1

Despite some reported glitches, the Vista operating system does has some advantages.

Robert Mitchell of Computerworld filed this report, titled “Reconsidering Vista.”

OK, it’s not perfect. But Windows Vista on a new PC is perfectlyserviceable for many users. In some ways, in fact, Vista is a betteroperating system than Windows XP. Unfortunately, XP’s heir apparent isalso the most derided and discounted Microsoft operating system sinceWindows Me.

With all of the negative press about slower-than-expected adoptionrates and the push for vendors to continue offering an XP option on newPCs, users may be left with the impression that anything is better thanopting for Vista, including paying a premium to downgrade to Windows XPwhen buying a new PC.

That’s a bit extreme. Granted, the operating system has its share ofglitches and issues. Higher-end versions are pricey, and Vista requiresstate-of-the-art hardware for optimum performance. But more than a yearafter its release, Vista with SP1 is reasonably stable and probablymore secure than XP. It’s also technically more advanced than itsseven-year-old predecessor.

As developers bring products to market that exploit unique Vistacapabilities, such as the Presentation Graphics subsystem and supportfor Sidebar gadgets, users will want them. But those who buy XP withthat new PC won’t have access to those applications because they willbe working through an operating system designed in the late’90s to runon millennium-era hardware. What’s more, general support for that “new”XP operating system will end next April, even though many consumerswill keep those machines for five years.

If users buying new PCs are going to stick with Windows, they shouldget machines with Vista preloaded. Sure, the incessant barking ofsecurity warnings is annoying, but those can be muzzled. Windows is theplatform on which users run the applications that do the real work.Those applications will increasingly exploit and rely on Vista’scapabilities.

In a market that watches shipments as if they were movie box-officegrosses, Vista has fallen short of very public expectations. Butalthough Vista hasn’t been a blockbuster on par with Windows 95,general penetration rates for the operating system are following thesame slow, steady trajectory as those for Windows XP, according to aJune report by Bernstein Research.
For business, the Vista adoption calculation has many more variables.And there’s no need to rush. Enterprises can continue to install theirown XP system images onto new hardware, and the security updates thatbusinesses need will be available until 2014. By then, Vista’ssuccessor should be established.

But there is also something to be said for staying current with yourusers. Vista is shipping on most new Windows PCs in the retail channel.Microsoft claims to have shipped 140 million copies as of March 2008,and it’s a sure bet that most of those licenses aren’t being downgradedto XP. That means users will increasingly be running Vista at home.

At least one wavering CIO sees this as a political issue. He worriesthat if users accept Vista at home and businesses wait for Windows 7,IT may look lethargic in its efforts to deploy the latest technology tomeet business needs. By the time Windows 7 is ready for enterprise use,XP will be at least 10 years old. At that point, being on the trailingedge with XP could hurt IT’s credibility and make kicking offmore-ambitious projects difficult, he says.

In the end, the Vista decision involves striking a delicate balancebetween political, technical and business issues. Wait or migrate? Bothchoices involve some risks.

Robert L. Mitchell is a Computerworld national correspondent. Contact him at  robert_mitchell at

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