There were a lot of articles written during the year 2007 that claimed Windows Vista as being just this side of a total bomb in terms of the number of folks switching to it. It appears that those articles aren’t entirely accurate:
Windows Vista didn’t make a smooth market entrance; in fact, nearly every aspect of the operating system has been attacked since its release on January 30, 2007. Multiple SKUs allegedly confused customers, anti-DRM groups disliked Vista’s Protected Video Path and its overall DRM friendliness, and Microsoft’s definition of “Vista Capable” got the company sued. Toss in a plethora of bugs and the usual consumer backlash over GUI changes, and you’d think consumers would be avoiding Vista in droves. According to new information, however, they aren’t—Vista’s adoption rate over the past year actually exceeded XP’s in 2001, and consumers apparently choose Vista over XP by a 7:1 margin.
ZDNet’s Ed Bott has assembled a database of information drawn from Dell’s Outlet Center (full details on his methodology and results are available here). While small businesses definitely prefer Windows XP to Vista (70 percent to 30 percent), only 7 percent of consumers appear to be opting for Windows XP over Vista.
For all the bad press that’s a pretty good adoption rate, but then, as I’ve pointed out previously, we’ve been here before with the launch of Windows XP. When that OS launched there were tons of articles about how terrible it was compared to previous versions of Windows, how slow and resource intensive it was, and how some folks were swearing they’d never leave Windows 98 and so on and so forth. After awhile the noise died down and Windows XP went on to become the dominate Windows platform as more and more people bought new PCs that were built to handle it.
I’ve been running Vista for several months now and I have to admit that I think it’s a decent upgrade to XP. More telling to me, however, is the opinion of my wife who got used to running Vista during the period that she was without her own PC. When we got the generous donation of parts for her just before Christmas she told me that she’d rather have Vista on her PC even though the Socket 754 based motherboard she’s using doesn’t have active drivers being developed for it (it’s considered a Legacy device according to nVidia). Turns out the drivers built into Vista handles her motherboard just fine. Oddly enough it was two minor features of Vista that she’s grown to love that made her ask for it. First was a sidebar gadget called Notepad that works like an electronic post-it note and the other is the new Windows Calendar built into the OS. Trivial as they are she finds them useful enough to prefer Vista over XP. If Vista was truly problematic on her hardware she’d probably want to go back to XP, but it runs fine if a tad slow which is to be expected on Legacy hardware.
The biggest issue either of us have had with running Vista so far has been RAM. One gigabyte of RAM under Vista is about the same as running 512MB of RAM under XP. Both are the absolute minimum either OS should be run with. We’ll be bumping the RAM on both machines up sometime later in the month or early February as we get our finances on track after Christmas. Anne’s PC could do with a new SATA HD as well to take advantage of the speed boost that would give over the PATA drive she’s using now. If you’re running newer hardware that uses DDR2 RAM then this shouldn’t be much of an issue as DD2 RAM is dirt cheap these days. We’re still running DDR RAM so prices are still a bit high—$139 for 2 GBs as opposed to as low as $49.99 (after rebate) for some flavors of DDR2 RAM.
If Vista were half as bad as some of these articles make it out to be then I’d be back in Windows XP myself, but the truth is the hype over how horrible it is is more a statement of how much people hate change. Sure there’s enough stuff in different places that there’s a learning curve and some things, sharing printers and files, is slightly more complicated because they’ve increased the security granularity, but that’s just an education issue. As more folks upgrade their hardware to models that are built to run Vista properly a lot of the noise you’re hearing will once again die away and by the time Windows 7 comes along everyone will be ready to start the bitch fest all over again.
Which brings us to the question of whether you should make the switch. The answer I give most folks these days is the following: If you’re running hardware that’s a year or more older then you may want to stick with XP depending on how high end it was when you bought it, but if you’re building/buying a new machine and plan to get at least 1GB of RAM in it then there’s nothing so wrong with Vista that you should avoid it. It’s going to be the default Windows platform eventually anyway and businesses will eventually be switching as well. Here at The Automotive Company™ we’re still migrating some users from Windows 2000 (a dead OS as far as Microsoft is concerned) to Windows XP (which Microsoft considers all but dead) and they’ve been testing Vista builds for quite awhile now. Chances are they’ll make the switch to Vista with the next two years, if not sooner. Big business is always slow to upgrade so the fact that they’ve not rushed to Vista doesn’t really mean a thing, but that 7 to 1 ratio of consumers making the switch does.