Laying Vista ghosts to rest

Laying Vista ghosts to rest

Vista’s formal New Zealand launch at the start of 2007 was carried out with pomp and ceremony. Journalists gathered at a palatial Wellington home to see how the operating system could make a house into an entertainment and office productivity powerhouse, while All Black Daniel Carter was the centrepiece of a midnight launch party at an Auckland retailer.

As late as the middle of last year, the software vendor was campaigning to myth-bust around issues that have haunted Vista since it arrived – namely device driver and application incompatibilities that hampered involvement by third parties, and hefty hardware requirements.

Even the User Account Control security feature, which continually asks users if they really want to do what they just asked to do, was enough to drive anyone spare.

Although Microsoft set about fixing compatibility problems, a sour taste remained. An international petition to save XP was launched last June and businesses were finding the downgrade option from Vista increasingly popular.

Early adopters spread critical first impressions and bad impressions prove difficult to overcome. It was here that the seeds of Vista’s relative failure, XP’s continued popularity, and users’ desire to see what Vista’s successor would offer, were sown.

There are myriad reasons why a softly, softly approach will benefit Microsoft as it takes Windows 7 to market.

Windows business group manager Ben Green admits Microsoft wants to “under promise and over-deliver” this time around. Like any product, no amount of fancy packaging or marketing will compensate for a product that doesn’t work well enough for users’ liking.

The company says Vista adoption among local enterprises (Microsoft tracks its top 120 accounts here) has reached between 12 and 14 percent.

With the majority of businesses still using XP with an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality, then adoption of Windows 7 will depend on the OS proving its worth.

Economic conditions have changed markedly since Vista hit our streets, and a fanfare-filled launch of Windows 7 would be inappropriate in this recessionary climate. Microsoft is therefore right to couch its adoption message in terms of business payoff rather than nifty features.

Partners and customers will be far more receptive to news that Windows 7 can run on a netbook that is worth less than $1000, than on a portable that requires, for example, a certain amount of video RAM, to get Vista’s best functionality to work.

The addition of an XP Mode (a virtual XP) in Windows 7 acknowledges the older OS’ continued popularity and the concerns over legacy applications.

In addition, this OS is less a radical overhaul than an acknowledgement of what needs to be fixed and streamlined.

The launch to enterprises and consumers should reflect this.

Vista made gains in security and in certain areas, performance. But early problems haven’t been overcome.

Enterprises who tested Vista will be looking even harder before they leap to Windows 7, so Microsoft needs to get it right this time.

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