Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The view from here

The home edition of Microsoft Vista was released yesterday, backed by a US$500 million marketing campaign, amid much fanfare and razzmatazz. I've been using the business version of Vista for a couple of months now (alongside XP and Mac OS X machines) and decided I'd pen my thoughts.

I'm distinctly underwhelmed by this new operating system. It was running on a high-spec machine, and was still glitchy and sluggish. It offered nothing that I couldn't either get on XP or Mac OS X that would make me want to spend money on the product. Frankly I think it falls short of Mac OS X on several fronts.

Disclaimer: Yes, I'm a Mac fanboy (have you seen the new UK "Get a Mac" ads, by the way?). But I like to think I've retained some sense of objectivity! I hate the beachball of death. And, as with politics, I like the thought of strong competition. But alas it just wasn't to be.

Maggie Philbin, of Tomorrow's World fame, was on the BBC Breakfast news yesterday talking about the product. This is important, because this is how lots of people will find out about Vista. She listed the three main "benefits" that a Vista upgrade offered:

1. Improved Desktop Search facility
2. Improved Security
3. Improved Graphics

Ha!

1. Google has had a free, excellent, works-on-XP desktop search product available since August 2005. Apple released a similar product, Spotlight, even earlier, in April 2005 (with the release of Tiger).

2. I sprayed my cornflakes across the room when I heard this one. If anyone has an awful track record when it comes to releasing software with poor security, needing numerous patches, it's Microsoft. I give it one year before the first service pack.

3. Compared to Mac OS X, the graphics look pretty naff. I've been using OS X for over two years now, and the novelty factor has long since worn off, but still tricks like the Genie effect, Exposé, and Dashboard are used because they give me valuable feedback on what's going on, or help make me more productive. Vista includes a graphics engine called Aero, which allows for transparency of items on the screen, which hogs the processor without offering much benefit. In fact they often make the screen look cluttered. And the other piece of eye candy is Windows Flip 3D, which admitedly looks quite nice, if a little jerky. I still think Exposé is better.

By the way, the project we were working on (that necessitated the use of the Vista PC) was creating Gadgets for Orange customers to put in their Vista sidebar. Can't talk about it much yet, otherwise I'd have to kill you, but it was cool working with the new operating system first hand. At the end of the day, I love playing with new software and it doesn't get much bigger than a new Microsoft operating system. It's just a shame it's not better.

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