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    Little for Microsoft to celebrate on Vista’s first birthday

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver February 26-March 3, 2008; issue 957

    High Tech Office column

    Windows Vista turned one year old January 30. Like any proud parent, Microsoft wants to celebrate. With Vista pre-installed on the bulk of PCs sold to home users, Microsoft can boast of over 100 million licences worldwide and note that Vista has sold more copies than Windows XP did at its one-year mark.

    And on February 4, Microsoft released Vista Service Pack 1 to manufacturing, promising to make this massive update roll-up available to the general public in mid-March. Traditionally, many large organizations take Microsoft releases more seriously after release of the first service pack.

    Business uptake of Vista has been exceptionally slow. So slow that Microsoft can point to only a handful of Vista adopters – noting “businesses already using Windows Vista include PCL in Alberta, the Toronto District School Board in Ontario and A. C. Dispensing in Nova Scotia.” Asked for someone more familiar to Business in Vancouver readers, their local “poster child” was the City of Langford. (Langford is a 22,000-resident municipality on southern Vancouver Island.)

    While SP1 is not generally available, some copies have made it out to reviewers. (I didn’t get one, though I’m running a pre-release SP1 version without problem.) Microsoft’s last big service pack release, XP SP2, offered a number of new features. Most notably a security centre putting firewall, antivirus and update controls all in one place. Vista SP1, while combining the various Vista security updates into one installation offers fewer immediately noticeable changes.

    In response to a complaint by Google to the U.S. Department of Justice, Vista SP1 lets users disable Microsoft’s built-in search feature, replacing it with the Google Desktop search or other alternatives. SP1 users will find it both faster and slower than the original Vista. Over time, Vista optimizes itself for each user’s system. Installing SP1 wipes out the optimization data, putting the user back to Square 1. However, SP1 promises faster file copying and unzipping and improvements in network access speed.

    The biggest problem for Vista, in my opinion, is that Microsoft has failed to convince users that there’s much of a Wow! to it. I first installed a version of Vista with a pre-release test version about six months prior to its official release, and I’ve been working with its various updates regularly ever since. On new hardware with enough RAM and a good enough video card it’s fine. (No, I don’t like the frequency of some of the nags when I’m downloading software and at other times.) And there are some nice add-ins; I prefer Vista’s Movie Maker and DVD Maker to Apple’s iMovie and iDVD, for instance.

    But there’s no killer feature – nothing that I can recommend to readers of this column as something that they need to have.

    Prior to Vista’s release, there was talk about upcoming applications building on Vista’s improved graphics; a free New York Times reader application was demoed. A year later, I haven’t heard of any software promising gee-whiz features for Vista-only.

    Instead, there’s talk in the grapevine about something called Windows 7. Microsoft is keeping mum, but you can find screenshots, feature lists and more online.

    The rumours make Windows 7 seem like a sort of anti-Vista; lean and mean, with a scaled-down feature set that won’t take Microsoft four to six years to bring to fruition. ZDNet Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley considers a 2009 release “a realistic possibility.”

    That leaves enterprise buyers in a quandary. Microsoft is cutting off sales of XP at the end of June, removing that as an option.

    So go with Vista (presumably SP1) now or wait for something else with unannounced features at some unspecified future date. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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