The consumer versions of Microsoft Windows Vista are finally available today around the world. Vista is available both at retail outlets and, in a first, via download. Microsoft’s tag line for Vista is The “Wow” starts now. And most consumers will be “Wowed” by the ridiculous number of different versions to choose from. Do you want Home Basic, Business, Home Premium or Ultimate? Good question. Most of the decision depends on knowing what you want to do. Unfortunately the technology experts in every family will end up answering many questions about Vista and most of them will not be happy about it. How many of them will answer, “Buy a Mac,” remains to be seen.
New Windows releases have been an event ever since Microsoft hired the Rolling Stones to perform for the Windows 95 release. The Windows 95 commercials featured the Stones performing their song “Start Me Up” in a clever reference to the start menu that has been present in every version since. Windows roll-outs have traditionally been a big deal. The question is, are consumers as excited about Vista as they were about previous versions of Windows?
Sales numbers will take a few months to trickle in, so in the meantime speculation about the success of Vista will be rampant. Many have complained about the steep system requirements for Vista. As an experiment, we ran the Windows Vista Upgrade Adviser on several machines. The laptop that this article was written with, failed to meet the minimum requirements for Vista. The problem was hard drive space and the video card. Even though the laptop can run several recent video games, it is incapable of hosting a new operating system. The laptop is slightly more than a year old and it can not be upgraded to the latest version of Windows. Other PC’s faired much worse, even some dedicated software development machines.
The main upgrade issue seems to be graphics power or more precisely, the lack thereof. Previous versions of Windows happily chugged along with a very minimal graphics card, after all, the operating system shouldn’t require that much graphics power just to boot. A user needs graphics power playing video games or watching a DVD, not running Excel. Apparently times have changed. In order to boot Windows Vista, you must have a fairly brawny graphics card.
Most consumers will be best served by buying Vista with a brand new machine and not upgrading. In the many reviews around the net and in our own experience, Vista is a nice update, if your machine has the horsepower to run it. At this point, we have to advise readers not to upgrade machines unless the machine easily surpasses the minimum requirements for Vista.
The consumer market is important but what about the other major market, large and small businesses? Will businesses rush out to get the new upgraded Vista and the new version of Microsoft Office? Experience says no. After talking to several system administrators they have expressed concerns over having to purchase new equipment in order to run Vista. Instead of a massive upgrade of additional equipment most said that they would slowly update existing inventory as older machines wore out and were replaced. Many did not see an immediate need or any tangible benefits from upgrading to a newer version of Windows. As one said, “Why do I need to give my users the ability to record DVD video?. There’s just not a whole lot we need in Vista as far as I can tell.”
The good news for Microsoft is that companies will eventually upgrade. Most are incapable of switching to a different operating system because many companies depend on software that only runs on Microsoft Windows platforms. For the foreseeable future anyway, the workplace belongs to Windows, even if its not the latest and greatest version.