I think it’s awesome that John Dvorak is still writing for PC Magazine. The world has spun around many times and this industry looks almost nothing like it did when we all started in the 1980’s. One of the things I love about Dvorak’s voice through the years is that he’s not afraid to stick his neck out and be wrong. He did that in his recent editorial on Vista.
Vista, good and bad, is not about marketing and only slightly about price point. You simply don’t need to market and operating system if PC manufacturers are doing it for you. Microsoft did blow the pricing because Microsoft and the ecology need Vista more than you need to move. The pricing is dangerous in the long run, but not terribly relevant in the short term.
The problem with Vista is that the reason you want it on your desktop is technical subtleties, not flash. John says “all the cool and promised features of the original vision of Longhorn”. That implies that a fundamentally better security model isn’t a cool feature. I was in the room when Longhorn was announced at PDC, and it might shock people to learn that people like me were telling our contacts at Microsoft that they were crazy in thinking developers could uptake that many new features in less than a decade. Four years in, we didn’t exaggerate by more than a year or two. The Longhorn vision needs to come in bits and pieces.
What Vista needed most is exactly what Vista has: a new security model and baked in 3D graphics.
I moved to Vista against my will because I bought a new laptop in the timeframe where PC manufacturers were not offering XP. I have fallen in love with the productivity features of the operating system. Real productivity features are rarely flashy. The new Windows Explorer has two features worth the price of admission. I can drag things on and off the “Favorite Links” pane to have a real time view of my focus. The ability to drop down higher level folders to easily reach sibling folders also saves a handful of seconds dozens of times every day.
The downside of Vista is also technical. The real elephant in the room is not price, it’s drivers. I have a perfectly good HP LaserJet 6L which last I heard did not have Vista drivers. I already struggle because it doesn’t have a USB port and laser printers are finally cheap, so this hit my “never waste” nerve far more than my actual pocket book. Microsoft’s belief that hardware manufacturers would write Vista drivers for old equipment was naïve. Microsoft should have provided an independent driver upgrade tool – and if that was not possible, create even low-performing drivers to keep the plethora of accessories functioning and out of landfills.
I advise family members on software and often buy it for them. My Dad’s on Vista. He hates it, but it’s where he belongs so he can play more safely on the Internet. My Mom’s on Vista and doesn’t mind because she upgraded from Windows 95 (no joke). She’s her retirement communities computer expert now because she knows tricks like how to go back up a directory in Vista’s file explorer and how to use that text box in the Start Menu. My brother’s brand new box is XP because he has more invested in peripherals than the new laptop (two expensive keyboards, etc). My niece is an artist and Vista is gentler and less clunky. An ex stripped my niece’s previous box of MS software and loaded Ubuntu. My son’s are also both on Linux. Their choice but it’s good that they have to pay attention to their OS.
In the short run, the problem is technical features never win without flash. That’s our problem. In the long run, Microsoft chasing Google is stupid. John’s correct that they sell software and they should still be worried about Linux. The reason more people aren’t on Linux is that they are afraid of it. Remove the fear and Linux is a perfectly adequate operating system – already having some of the core security features Vista added.