Monday, July 14, 2008

Why I Won't Be Defecting from the Windows Ecosystem

Windows Vista operating system has been a challenge for many of us. It is not a secret that lots of us prefer using XP, and will continue to do so for a while. That doesn't mean we aren't planning to switch.

To be sure, some Microsoft users will find they can switch to another operating system without losing much. But many of us will not find that appealing.

As somebody who gets asked to beta test new applications and services, I just find that running XP or Vista is a business requirement. If beta versions of new applications routinely are made available on some other operating system, that is a different story. If that does not happen, as the saying goes, "resistance is futile." One sticks with the operating system the rest of the ecosystem uses, and so far, in my case that means a Microsoft platform.

Many of the problems some of us encountered early on were incompatibilities with other devices and applications that worked fine using XP, and stopped working when Vista first launched. That doesn't mean we think those problems will not be fixed. They are being fixed. And the time will come when any application or device that worked with XP will work with Vista. Problem fixed. But it will take some time before that happens. How much time might be an issuse for some applications. But Microsoft's ecosystem will get all that fixed.

So everybody who remains on XP, sooner or later, will migrate to Vista. XP support will be discontinued, Vista support will be ubiquitous. It's a little like the reason end users are migrating to IP-based phone systems. All considerations of new features and lower costs aside, support for legacy TDM systems will some day end. So, going forward, everybody will move to IP-based systems.

Refreshingly, Microsoft owns up to the early issues. "We had an ambitious plan," says Brad Brooks, corporate vice president, Windows Consumer Product Marketing. "We made some significant investments around security in this product."

"And you know what, those investments, they broke some things," he says. "They broke a lot of things. We know that. "

Speaking to application partners, Brooks was honest and direct. "We know it caused you a lot of pain in front of your customers, in front of our customers."

"And it got a lot of customers thinking, and even yourselves and our partners thinking, “Hey, is Windows Vista a generation that I want to make an investment in?” he adds. So forget about the flash. Vista was designed around Internet security, and Brooks says it succeeded in that effort.

"There's been 20 percent fewer security problems on Windows Vista than XP in 2007," he says. "Windows Vista is the safest OS in terms of security vulnerabilities in its first year of operation, safer than any other commercial or Open Source OS in its launch."

"When you run Windows Vista you're 60 percent less likely to get malware on your machine than if you use Windows XP SP 2," he says.

"It is only getting better as we move forward, because Windows Vista, it's an investment in the long term," he says.

"The same architectural changes that we put in that caused the heartaches moving to Windows Vista are things that we are going to carry forward into Windows 7," he says. "And we are going to target roughly the same hardware specifications that we did when Windows Vista launched."

That means developers can invest in Windows Vista applications knowing they will run the same way in Windows 7.

That was the right thing to say, and I expect it is what Microsoft will do. Looking back on the specific incompatibility issues I encountered with Vista, it was those incompatibilities--now being fixed--that were the issue, not the particularities of Vista.

So despite the fact that I have chosen to run XP on my latest machines, not Vista, that does not mean I will not upgrade to Vista, or Windows 7. I might hope not to be in the first wave of adopters of Windows 7, but that's just a practice many of us have adopted over the years when a new OS is rolled out.

Microsoft does not have to worry about me defecting from the ecosystem. It does have to worry about its ecosystem defecting, though. So far, I detect no movement of that sort. For that reason, I am sure I'll be moving to Vista. The ecosystem is hard to ignore.

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