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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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April 21, 2008 10:00 AM

Column on Microsoft's Vista attitude strikes nerve

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's column on Microsoft's attitude toward Windows Vista apparently tapped a rich vein of frustration with the operating system.

Feedback ranges from the usual dismissive rants about Microsoft to long, thoughtful notes from people who seem almost sad about the problems they've had.

A few samples:

I enjoyed reading today's column titled "Maybe Vista is just a victim of inflated expectations." I have to reply because in my mind Vista is the victim of Microsoft's marketing machine and old age.

Microsoft's marketing machine more or less said Vista was awesome. What really happened is the Vista experience is closer to a Windows ME experience; that is, an unsatisfying mix of the old and new.

After reading your article, for fun I fired up Microsoft Windows 2.03 ((c) 1987) in a VMware virtual machine to remind me of the core Windows experience. In a weird way, I realized that on many days all the functionality I need in a computer is right there in Windows 2.03.

Microsoft must know the Windows franchise is played out....

Scanner darkly:

I bought a new laptop with Vista Home Premium in February 2007. Almost immediately Internet Explorer stopped working. After a few days of emailing back and forth with Microsoft it was determined that some software that came with my scanner was the problem. I removed the software and Internet Explorer worked for a few weeks and now, although I have not added any peripherals or software since then, IE7 has stopped working again....

I had saved all my emails from Microsoft tech and went through all of that procedure again to no avail. IE7 will not work and I'm not paying Microsoft tech to help me fix a problem with their product.Thank goodness for trouble free Firefox.

In 2008 a computer should not be this difficult to use. The user interface should be nearly completely intuitive. I don't think that is too high an expectation. I don't want to be a computer expert. I just want to use a computer as a reliable tool to accomplish some tasks.

Microsoft has lost me. I'm switching to Apple when I wear out this laptop. I hear that Apple has it's own problems but it can't be as bad as Microsoft....

Start over?:

When Apple went to OS X, version 10.0 was a disaster -- slow and prone to almost daily kernel panics. But from what they've accomplished since then, it seems obvious that the core design was good, especially at being modular and scalable. It sounds like even Microsoft realizes that Vista isn't that and may soon be off on another major rewrite, with all the delays that could entail and with a new set of execs. I pity Windows users caught in that trap. Some of Microsoft's problems may lie in the sheer amount of resources they can throw into a product. The result is often an overgrown monster.

Sticking with XP:

I just bought two new copies of XP Pro for upgrades, and may buy more as insurance for my next builds. . Vista's problem is XP is so good - and SP3 is on its way to boot -- soon it'll be even better. I figure I'll be good for at least 8 years -- after that it'll be Linux.

Most MS OS sales figures ride on OEM installations on new machines; actual upgrades are always a small part of the pie. In Vista's case, business users are especially reluctant to make the switch. Talking about the next OS has already killed Vista for a lot of folks -- read the bulletin boards. It's very slow, has beau coup file handling problems -- the geeks are calling it "Vista - Me."

Microsoft undervalued sometimes, but ...

No, it is the result of poor software design.

In many cases Microsoft is given too little credit for their advances in user interface design. In this case the designers were out to lunch.

An example: Click on "Connect to Network," double click on your VPN link, and a step later you get a screen that says "Succesfully Connected to VPN."

Now, disconnect your VPN.

Click on "Connect to Network." Up pops a screen that says "Succesfully connected to VPN." Actually, it was already open, it simply was promoted to the top of your desktop. A network connection button that starts as a verb shouldn’t suddenly become a static noun and stick around to confuse you later.

One glaring example. There are many more.

I use Vista on three machines and have gradually learned to work around its quirks, and to tolerate the fact that it slows my applications.

But Microsoft can do better.

From a CIO:

Perhaps this has [to] do with Microsoft's aggressive new corporate licensing, forcing Vista into the business market. When you force the issue, talking bolder stance with publicizing end of life cycles, most businesses typically follow simply because they have no other option, especially if you are entrench with Microsoft solutions....

In short, it isn't we don't want to upgrade Vista. We can't. Microsoft has priced its usage, requirements, its programmability out of our range.

Yet one reader says it's not all bad:

For a lot of folks Vista is far surpassing their expectations.

Any other thoughts?

UPDATE: The last comment above was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, the writer said in a follow-up email: "I, like a lot of folks, have a very low expectation of anything from Microsoft,'' he said. For a defense of Vista, check the comment below from a student at Western.

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Posted by TimQuiggle

10:55 AM, Apr 21, 2008

the comparison to ME is dead on. I don't see how MS can expect business customers to run this POS.

Posted by Tim

10:58 AM, Apr 21, 2008

There is a need to differentiate between Vista 64 and Vista 32. I bought a fast dual core 64 bit machine so I installed Vista Ultimate on it in 64 bit. What a disaster. Even though most software says it is Vista compatiablem that apparently doesn't mean 64 bit vista...which you find out only after buying it, trying it, and going through endless troubleshooting. We are talking about PDA software, antivirus software, adobe flash, etc. Much of the web simply doesn't work right now for me because I don't have a working, current version of Adobe flash. I certainly understand those that want to stick to XP or something older that still works.

Posted by Tom

11:46 AM, Apr 21, 2008

I was burned years ago with MS's ME OS. That was a complete "P.O.S."!!!

I learned then to NEVER trust new OS roll-outs; MS has a track record of introducing BUGGY "improvements"....premature releases prone to problems.

They way I still look at it.....the company OWES ME for THEIR defective ME OS; it was a total waste of time, quickly dropped, and poorly supported.

Posted by Tomm Munro

11:49 AM, Apr 21, 2008

Working in the high-tech industry here in Seattle (government sector), I have a number of friends who work for MS and the Vista OS. You just mention the word "Vista" to them and they stare at the floor and shuffle their feet as they head out the door. Zero confidence in their own product.
Along with 99.9% of my high-tech friends, most of us have tried Vista but have returned to XP and will continue to use that until they pry it from our cold, dead fingers.
MS needs to quit playing catch-up to the Google's, Adobe's, Apple's and Linux's, dump their antique DOS-based OS's once and for all and work to be an innovative, progressive company again.

Posted by Hal Itozis

12:47 PM, Apr 21, 2008

I would like to rename "Vista" as "Keystroke," since I seem to have to triple the amount of keystrokes to do the same task in XP. As for the new Outlook - it really sucks! I have yet to figure out how to email my "contacts." One would think you just double-click on the person, but no such luck:( Grade for Vista - C-

Posted by FutureUser

1:35 PM, Apr 21, 2008

I knew when Windoze 3.0 came out, it was garbage. Crashed repeatedly and took my DOS sessions with WordPerfect and Lotus123 down with it.

The layers of obligatory gobbledygook have gotten thicker, and so have the layers of ad hype, but the core issue remains the same: it is simply not in Microsoft's DNA to put reliability ahead of fluff.

So, I'll keep using my OS/2 eComStation and Firefox, OpenOffice, and all the ordinary stuff I need to get real work done. Meanwhile, at work I'll slog thru whatever Mafiasoft stuff they feel compelled to standardize on.

Posted by Brier

2:22 PM, Apr 21, 2008


I wonder if people will feel different about Vista with SP1, but it sounds like it needs something more drastic.

Posted by WWUstudent

4:35 PM, Apr 21, 2008

I got my new Alienware laptop about a year ago with Vista Home Premium. I, for one, love the operating system. I have never had a major problem. Have I had a few minor issues? Yes, but those are to be expected with any operating system.

I'm now in my third quarter at Western Washington University, and I have to say, I'm very glad I don't have one of those awful Apple laptops (and operating systems) I see every once in awhile on campus.

Posted by Blew Screen

8:10 AM, Apr 22, 2008

Vista (SP1) blue screened on me yesterday while I was working in PowerPoint. When I called up Microsoft tech support, the arrogant response I got was "Vista doesn't blue screen unless there is a hardware problem." There is NO hardware problem, this was a PPT problem that took down Vista when it crashed.

I predict that Google will soon be offering an operating system that will blow the Windows out of Microsoft. And that will finally be the end of Microsoft's arrogance!

Posted by Comical Hero

8:14 AM, Apr 22, 2008

I'll agree with Blew Screen. Vista SP1 does blue screen. For me it was disk that failed. It was a drive I don't use that often and it had failed probably while I was at work. Periodically the machine would just blue screen. I ran some debugging steps from MSDN and narrowed it down to a disk problem; removed the bad disk and all is fine.

Posted by bt

8:37 AM, Apr 22, 2008

Tomm Munro - As someone who works in a high-tech field, you should probably know that the last DOS based OS that Microsoft released was Windows ME back around 2000. Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista are all based on the NT architecture.

Posted by rahul

9:00 AM, Apr 22, 2008

new feature of vista compare with xp

Posted by budbrad

9:58 AM, Apr 22, 2008

I agree about the 'inflated expectations' issue.

It was foolish of me to think that my printer, print server, router and modem all would work with the new OS. I can't believe how greedy I can be sometimes.

Also, how selfish of me to think that my XBOX would also be able to handshake with Vista.


Posted by Agent Orange

3:26 PM, Apr 22, 2008

I have not had one problem with Vista from day one. I just downloaded and installed SP1 and still no problems. I don't begin to understand why others are having so many problems, but I must say that every experience I have had with Vista thus far has been extremely gratifying. I love the look, speed is just as good if not better than XP, and I have Aero running on only 512MB. I fully expect Vista to be that much more awesome when I get around to installing more memory. I haven't even had problems with drivers or peripherals... guess I got lucky - I don't know...

Posted by XPuser

12:25 PM, Apr 24, 2008

It seems to me Microsoft seems determined to over engineer everything from their operating systems to how they license software and even downloading it now. They are about the least customer service friendly company on the planet, so why anyone would expect their software to be any better is beyond me? The example in the article of someone possibly paying to talk to a MS tech after just purchasing Vista is pathetic but typical. They may have companies trapped due to capital expendatures on software and hardware but that will not last forever. I cannot wait for that day!

Posted by tiggsy

4:11 AM, Apr 26, 2008

Given that many government departments and offices, along with quite a few educational establishments, have already moved from MS Office to Open Office, which runs happily under Linux, it would be little surprise if they started to move on to Linux, rather than spend oodles of money on an overpriced, unreliable piece of vista. And businesses may follow, wouldn't that be interesting to watch?

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.