NYTimes Kid Gloves Microsoft Vista

Steve Lohr at the NYTimes has written a kid-glove article about Windows Vista. It is so fluffy it makes one wonder if it was edited by the Times in order to get some of the half billion dollars in advertising that the author says will be spent by Redmond over the next few years to promote Windows Vista. Even more concerning is why some of the deep-seated continuing problems with Vista are left out of the article or by Microsoft implication acknowledged as resolved.

The Underlying Problems with Vista

One gets the distinct impression that this is a kid-glove story despite the headlines – Microsoft Works To Perfect Windows, when the author launches into all the things that Microsoft is doing to “perfect” Vista without discussing any of the problems. First we learn that Redmond is going to spend hundreds of millions over the next two years on promoting Vista. Next there is a “Corps of Microsoft engineers …. have been dispatched to tweak hardware and software to make Vista PCs faster and less crash-prone”. Ohh so Vista is not so fast ? And its crash prone ? How much so ?

A little further down we learn that “Microsoft has stepped into the world of PC retailers in a way it never has before, offering training and advice — and even paying to put hundreds of “Windows gurus” in stores.” Now what is the problem here – is Vista hard to use ? And why would that be so given that its predecessor, Windows XP, is probably familiar to 95% of Vista users. And finally, there is the deus ex machina pronouncement:
“By now, Microsoft insists that most of the frustrating technical problems with Vista, which was introduced in January 2007 after repeated delays, have been resolved — and many industry executives and analysts agree.”
Ahah – so there are technical problems. But they have been mostly resolved – and unnamed industry executives and analysts agree to that Microsoft provided assessment. Hmmm.

Vista Continues to have Major Problems

Here for the interested reader are five of the most pernicious, continuing problems with Vista.
1)Vista is bloated, requiring about 4 times as much memory as Linux to run itself. The result is user applications have less memory available for their operations – a big problem with database, graphics, gaming and any multi-tasking usage of a single program (think four or five open spreadsheets or word processing files). Even Vistas own performance is more erratic, seen as longer than usual waits for Vista-enabled Open dialogs, popup menus, selection lists and other operations.
2)Vista is slower than even Windows XP by a factor of about 40%. Infoworld matchup shows Win XP to be better than Vista in a number of categories as well as speed of operations.
3)Vista presents a whole range of old software and hardware compatibility problems. This is mainly driven by the problem that all of the hardware drivers and some major software compatibility for Vista had to be re-written. Many vendors simply did not do so – making Windows XP, Linux and Mac the better choices for hardware and software compatibility. Yes, Microsoft has improved this one area notably but I cannot run my perfectly good scanner and old favorite games on Vista like millions of other users.
4)Vista presents a significant learning curve for users familiar with Windows 98, Win 2000, or Windows XP. New security measures, more complex and anomalous changes to common working methods belie the Microsoft People Ready pledge for its software. No less an authority then highly respected ex-Microsofty Joel Spolsky raises the issue not only about Vista but also Office 2007 . Microsoft has made no changes or apologies here.
5)Vista means definitively that Microsoft is no longer the lowest cost producer of OS software; it is now the highest cost desktop OS by a wide margin. Look at this comparison with Novells business version of Linux, Vista costs nearly 5 times as much at nearly $600. Microsoft is certainly not reducing its prices – except in China where Windows Vista or XP + Office 2007 + Live Mail + MS Math + MS Essentials costs $3 [aside – tell me after the fantastic $40B Summer Olympics but also the Olympic Gold Medal drubbing and all those US manufacturing jobs going to China, why does China get dispensation on WTO mandated piracy and IP controls? China is now an economic and social powerhouse shouldnt they be paying full cost of goods? ] . In sum, having secured a monopoly position, Microsoft is surely charging monopoly prices for the Windows OS, particularly on the desktop.
These are just the core issues with Vista. This daily user of Vista on various consulting work has seen other serious Vista problems in networking, security overhang, and gradual OS/program degradation over a days use.

Now given that some of the critical Vista problems have been uncovered what does the NYTimes story say that Microsoft is doing about solutions. Well, as already noted, Microsoft has pressed hard on hardware and software vendors to update their drivers and software compatibility. Microsoft is also spending more on educating its users direct at retail as noted in the article. Finally, the article started with the major $half-a-billion marketing campaign promoting Vista.

But on the key issues of memory bloat, runtime performance, lingering reliability problems, the article is mum. Also author Steve Lohr is curiously mum on the issue of Windows XP being 40% faster than Vista, plus much more software and hardware compatible than Vista. Yet Microsoft as of June 30th of this year no longer allowed Windows XP to be sold pre-installed on any new retail PC machines(yes, you can request a downward copy of Windows XP but then you are on your own about installing it and getting support). Consumers cannot buy a PC other than a small segment called mini-notebooks with Windows XP as the installed OS. You would think that that author would wonder why this is so. At least he should raise the issue given that it would provide Microsoft time to get Vista up to snuff in the tough software engineering problems of continuing performance, reliability and compatibility problems. And maybe the author might anticipate the rumored trimmed down and full multi-touch screen capabilities that are supposedly coming with the real Wow in new Windows 7. In sum, the august NYTimes appears to have crumbled under the pressure of talking frankly about “the Microsoft’s Windows group [which] generated revenue of nearly $16.9 billion and operating profits of more than $13 billion, a phenomenal 77 percent margin.”