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Is It Too Late For Vista's Redemption?

Eighteen months after Vista shipped, Microsoft finally fesses up to what everyone already knew: Vista has problems. More accurately, Microsoft is willing to admit that Vista had problems shortly after its release but--naturally--they've been fixed. So it's safe to make the Vista switch now.
Eighteen months after Vista shipped, Microsoft finally fesses up to what everyone already knew: Vista has problems. More accurately, Microsoft is willing to admit that Vista had problems shortly after its release but--naturally--they've been fixed. So it's safe to make the Vista switch now.This situation is a bit unique. Microsoft usually admits that the current version of Windows was junk just as a new version is about to be released. They did a horrible job of handling just about every aspect of the Vista launch, though, so to some extent nobody is going to believe things got better unless Microsoft uses a little honesty. Fortunately, things have gotten better for Vista. Hardware with its ever-troublesome drivers has caught up, and application developers have shed some of the bad programming habits that made them misbehave on Vista.

Yet even with this new Windows-is-great push, Microsoft seems to have stumbled out of the gate. For example, the Windows Vista Compatibility Center was announced on Tuesday. I'd like to tell you what it looks like but as of late Wednesday it still hasn't been launched. The Windows Small Business Assurance Plan site loaded slowly, but at least it existed. There I found out that if you buy Windows Vista Business or Ultimate now, you can get free support from Microsoft--but only through October 2008.

Microsoft has also decided to fight back against Apple's successful "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" advertising series. All you have to do is look at Apple's rising market share to see that many computer users are finding Windows lacking. It will be interesting to see what tone Microsoft takes in responding to these ads, especially since they don't make PCs. Often it's the PC OEMs, not Microsoft, that make the PC experience miserable with poor support, bloatware and unreliable drivers. Even some Microsoft employees are tired of defending their employer to Mom and would like marketing to help.

We all know the real problem is Vista's wildly popular older brother, XP. Sure, Microsoft has announced that XP sales stopped as of June 30th, although it's supported through 2014. But of course there is a list of loopholes that can still get you XP, such as downgrade rights and ultra-mobile systems like the Asus Eee PC. Heck, Microsoft just announced that it would stop selling Windows 3.1 as of November 2008; the ancient OS apparently was living out its old age in embedded systems. So there's no way XP is dead.

One of the spins that Microsoft is taking is that if you step up to Vista now, the switch to the still-nebulous Windows 7 will be easier. I do think that Microsoft learned their lesson with Vista, and that Windows 7 will be much less ambitious. But Microsoft can't make any promises about Windows 7 right now, so it still seems like less trouble for businesses to stay with XP for now. Even the IT departments of partners like Intel have come to that conclusion.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing