Lately, I’ve been listening to my fair share of technology podcasts. (Most of them on the TWiT network (twit.tv)). As I’ve said before, it’s a great time to be a tech enthusiast. Last year this time, we were consumed with viral videos, rumors and speculation about what it would be like to use the Zune, what Sony would be charging for the PS3 and whether the Wii would actually work as advertised. Turning the page to 2007, all of those products are out and available for consumption and evaluation. Moreover, there’s a ton of other stuff coming down the road that we’ll get to experience later this year.
However, I do want to turn my attention now to a monumental release — Microsoft’s first operating system release in five years — Microsoft Windows Vista. Lately there’s been a ton of unflattering press thrown Microsoft’s way. And while it’s odd to feel the need to defend a 300-pound gorilla, I think people may be looking at the release of Vista from the wrong perspective.
Most of the conversations I’ve had with folks are around the question of whether there was value in upgrading to Vista. The answer I give always seems to be different — and it was probably because I hadn’t been convinced myself why I should plunk down $149 – $259 for a new OS. After all, it’s a big headache porting applications and taking the time to learn where old settings have been moved to. However, because I work in technology, I almost don’t have a choice. You always have to stay current.
I’m a sucker when it comes to technology buzz. The bigger the buzz, the more I want in. It’s no different with Vista. Even though I participated in the public beta and had a few problems, I’m still itching to install the new OS. (And when I do, I’ll give my impressions here.) But I had an interesting epiphany while pondering over the decision to buy Vista. The real reason why we can’t point to a single huge reason to upgrade to Vista is because most of the major advances have already been achieved. Let me explain…
- Windows 3.1 was monumental because it was a business-ready and consumer-ready version of a graphical operating system on an affordable personal computer that was distributed in volume. This was when the Microsoft that we know and love really began to take off into the stratosphere.
- Subsequently, Windows NT (New Technology) was monumental because it was more stable and utilized a more advanced file system (NTFS) — which many of us are still using today.
- Windows 95 was monumental because it brought a true object oriented interface to Windows users. Gone was the Program Manager and File Manager and replacing them were Windows Explorer, long file names and true drag-and-drop operation within the interface — not just within the File Manager.
- Windows 98 brought us a more Internet and network-friendly version of Windows.
- Windows 2000 brought a corporate-ready OS to market with a much higher level of security and stability — the biggest gain that Windows had seen since the release of Windows NT.
- Windows XP brought that same level of security and stability to a more mainstream audience along with a more media-friendly OS that was ready to burn and play DVDs.
NOTE: (These are all short blurbs of how I recall Windows evolving over the years and are by no means an all-encompassing look at the evolution of Windows.)
As you can see, most of the major advances in making Windows more secure, more stable, more business friendly and more media-friendly have happened over the past sixteen years or so. So, is that to say that there’s not much innovating left to do? No. But there’s one other factor that has contributed to this version of Windows not having many flags to wave. With the Internet becoming even more mainstream and with bandwidth increasing such that even $15 a month can get you a 3Mbs connection, many of the updates that we’ve needed in between versions of Windows have been pushed down via Microsoft Service Packs and Internet updates. No longer do we have to wait for the next major release of Windows for major changes. Halfway through Windows XP’s life cycle, it was apparent that with all the machines that have becomes zombies to spyware that a firewall was needed. So, being responsive to consumer demand, Microsoft delivered one. And free of charge. Other updates to the web browser and Windows Media Player were also offered to Windows customers free of charge.
For these reasons and a few others, it’s clear to see that the landscape has changed. Most of the major battles have been fought and won over the years and the Internet has led to more updates pushed via free download. So, why should we upgrade to Windows Vista?
Well, if you’re the kind of person who dips your toe in the water forty-seven times before deciding to do the same with your foot — and then your calf next — it’s probably not recommended to install a new version of Windows on your existing machine. Rather, you’ll get a copy when you buy a new machine. But for those of us that are technology enthusiasts, this is as good a time as any to get to know our new OS. And this doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to be incredibly tech-savvy. You just have to be willing to learn. Why is this a good time? Well, because for one, we’ll all learn the OS together. As we use the OS, we’ll post our experiences and talk about what works and what doesn’t work. We’ll reveal untapped features to each other. For me, this isn’t the type of thing where you wanna be late to the party. Most of the OS learning (at least, for me) is done within the first year of it’s release.
I’m excited about the new version of Windows. And for no reason in particular. Just because it’s “the new Windows”. While I might be an OS X user primarily and while I’m eagerly anticipating that operating system’s release as well, there’s room in my heart for two environments. More than likely the customers I support will be using Vista as well.
And so to the press that’s been unfairly critical of Microsoft’s latest OS release — please consider the innovations that Microsoft has brought to the PC-side of the equation over the years. While I’m sure it’s difficult to write stories in the press when there aren’t any major bullet points to highlight, consider the fact that there’s value in being on the latest and greatest that Microsoft has to offer.
Here’s a PC World article where they attempt to present reasons why folks should upgrade to Vista. It’s a good attempt, but, like any other attempt to entice folks into buying Vista, it’s a tough sell when you try to present two or three, or in this case, even 10 reasons to upgrade. I find that it’s better to present Vista as the next evolutionary step in the platform that we’ve been using for over a decade — it’s the new version of Microsoft Windows. And that’s enough for me.