A good question, and the answer is a resounding ‘YES’.

Increased security is a must these days. Forget the older operating systems. Windows 3.1 and 95 are no longer relevant. Most home users of these operating systems never connected to the outside world. If anything was installed, it was done from a 5.25 or 3.5 inch floppy supplied by a friend, or maybe from a magazine cover. Users had no expectations other than to be amazed.

Windows 98 and ME appeared at around the same time as the really cheap PC  and the ever expanding Information Superhighway. Few of us ever realized at the time that this highway would attract bandits and hooligans in the way that it did. We were all too amazed at being able to talk to somebody across the other side of the world in ‘real time’, the funny part being that we didn’t even know what ‘real time’ really meant. For sure, it sounded good, almost too good.

The days of blissful ignorance were fast coming to an end. We were told that we would require firewalls and anti-virus protection before entering an IRC chat room, or downloading something from the Internet. Installing them should have been easy but for the fact that they did not always sit happily together. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they introduced us to ‘system resources’ or, more appropriately, a lack of them. Now we had another variation on the UAE (Unrecoverable Application Error) or GPF (General protection Fault).

Windows 2000 Professional aside, as it was intrinsically an operating system for commerce and business, lacking in both sandbox value and soul, XP introduced us to stable and safer computing but at a price. Our old jalopies were no longer up to the job of ‘Where do you want to go now?’ XP’s superior memory handling and management saw an end to dwindling system resources, but required that we had a more powerful, error free vehicle. To be effective, XP needed a good hardware base, and would not tolerate hardware coming to the end of it’s useful life.

XP was born true 32bit, and was the marker for us having to get used to leaving old stuff behind. After initial teething troubles, lack of drivers, incompatible programs etc, it soon became clear that this was a sandbox with attitude and soul in abundance. Armed with 512mb RAM or more, and a 40gb hard drive, now we could really rumble. Multi-tasking became a reality, and the once ever present BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) started to fade away. It still appeared from time to time but only if we gotten pushed into accepting quite bad programming code, or maybe an imminent hardware failure.

So if XP is ‘that’ good, why do we need to change? Why go through the same driver and program incompatibility issues a second time? XP was streets ahead of it’s cousins, the Windows 9x family. Windows ME, last in the 9x family was a good demonstration of what happens when you build in a sandbox.

For the first time, a truly capable operating system became available for the home user too. XP wasn’t a poor relation with bits added to make it suitable for business. It was Windows 2000 Professional with sand, and there lay the weakness. XP was the transitional operating system from the old DOS base, and it always was just transitional. It would be the last to offer almost full backward compatibility, a facet that had dogged Windows development from the very first.

Vista is more capable than it’s predecessor. It owes a great deal to XP but it is the next step. Backward compatibility is being dropped in part. It is the only way forward as Windows ME showed only too well. There comes a point where one has to look at the base and know that it is plainly not good enough anymore. With what has been learned since the introduction of XP,

  • The interface has improved, is slicker, shows more of its features willingly. Applications written for Vista will take full advantage of the better graphics handling, much of which is now given over to the installed video system.

  • Memory management has been taken to new levels. Vista uses as much RAM as it can at any given time for all running processes. Idle RAM is wasted RAM.

  • Security has improved. It can better protect against unwanted code installing to the computer, and has features that make the user more aware of dangers.

Some of these features are still in infancy. We, the users, are in our infancy too. We want ‘one click’ computing and are not used to security, especially being made partly responsible for it. This is the way that it has to be. Vista features will move forward, getting better all of the time, and we have to advance with them. In the future, we may well get our ‘one click’ desire. In the meantime, be happy with three clicks.. well maybe four.. OK, five if we must.

For now, XP may well fulfill all apparent needs but, whether you choose to be part of the first wave or prefer to wait until the dust has settled somewhat, you will need Vista.. eventually.