Now that we're close to the public launch of Vista, a weird thing is happening in the blogosphere: people are starting to say that we don't really need it after all.
For so many years, XP was the exploit-riddled OS lacking in basic security measures and forcing 95% of computer users to fit in with a five-year-old user interface that desperately needed to be updated to stay competitive with the digital era.
Now that Microsoft has finally done it, it's "yawn, we don't really need that... why fix what ain't broke."
Here's a high-profile example: Microsoft blogger Paul Thurrott says in his review of Vista: "The problem isn't even that Microsoft promised us the world and then failed to deliver. No, the problem is that there's another OS out there that runs just fine on over 400 million computers around the world. That system is stable, secure, and gets the job done. It's Windows Vista's biggest competitor. To be fair, it's Windows Vista's only competitor. Maybe you've heard of it: It's called Windows XP."
Ballmer and Gates must be kicking themselves for releasing such a substantial update with XP SP 2.
To an extent I have to agree with Thurrott. I've run Vista on my work PC for months and have actually gone back to XP for the time being (I'm still running a Vista box for testing and experimentation; just not working on it full time).
It's not that Vista isn't better than XP -- it is, in many ways -- it's that certain apps that I rely on don't work properly in it yet (Citrix GoToMyPC is one prime example -- I'll be buggered if I'm going to keep paying the monthly fee for a service that doesn't work in Vista, and Blackberry Desktop Manager doesn't seem to work properly with Office 2007.)
The benefits of Vista just aren't that enormous over XP, which, as it is at the end of its life cycle, works with everything.
In an upcoming edition of APC I've written about the top 10 reasons you should care about Vista. For me, many of the most important aspects of Vista come down to shell user-interface refinement: the ability to browse through a folder of photos in a method similar to Apple iPhoto, or a folder of music using ID3 tags rather than filenames.
Frankly, though, these improvements didn't need six years of kernel rewriting -- they could have been implemented by reworking the XP desktop.
It is certainly nice to have the option of a more modern operating system than XP. But upgrading to Vista on an existing PC may be a waste of money if you don't find XP irritating to use at the moment. Given Microsoft Australia has hiked up the local pricing so much compared to what Vista sells for in the US, the cost of the Vista upgrade is non-trivial. Probably the only way to buy Vista at a fair price is to get it with a new PC, where you'll probably only be paying $100 - $150 for the full OEM licence.