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What to do with Vista?


The time has finally come. Microsoft's new operating system Vista is about to be released to the public whereas some volume licencees in the business community have access to it today. On p2p networks ISO images of Vista make the round. Their filenames contain "BillGates" (for the Vista business version) and "MelindaGates" (for the stand-alone registration server) - what a nice couple indeed. So what should we do now with it: buy, hold or sell?

Let's explore the buy route. Well, you can't really buy Vista as of this writing, but you can buy a Vista-ready PC with a coupon to get Vista when it ships. And you will be able to buy soon. And when they say buy, they mean buy. Hardware requirements are stiff to get all the features (and who wouldn't want those) and typically a new PC is probably the best solution because

  • your 1+ year old hardware might not have Vista drivers
  • your box's memory might be too low (i.e. < 1GB) so you can't do anything useful
  • a DVD drive is a requirement for Vista installation; you have one don't you?
  • the fancy but productive 3D accelerated interface needs a decent video card; onboard shared-memory video or anything with less than 64M on-board doesn't cut it anymore
  • the OEM pricing part to get Vista in a brand new system is so low compared to the retail Software, that it might make more sense to buy new, rather than upgrade old+buy retail

So there you have it boys: Vista is a great excuse to get new stuff. [1]

Many people are likely to go the hold route, keeping their existing hardware and stick with XP for a few more years. Generally XP is a productive environment - yes, with occasional bang-your-head-against-the-wall quirks and issues and the occasional bluescreen. But we can live with that! In the hold case, updating XP for security is the name of the game. So, to prolong the life of your XP software, it is also good to keep a CD version of all the patches around (along with the original operating system media) in case a reinstall is needed. And of course the use of the included but aging IE6 browser is not really recommended - expecially when IE7 and Firefox2 are available. A SP3 for Windows XP is planned to be released in 2008 - so hold should be safe until then. [2] [3]

What many computer users might not have considered is the possibility to sell. Well, not literally selling, but dropping the use of Microsoft products all together. There are two main choices here: Apple's OSX (which would mean a hardware "buy" is needed and your old PC can now really be sold) and Linux (or better one of the various distributions). To explore the Linux idea a bit further, it would mean that all existing Windows software  (i.e. business apps, games, etc.) would be useless. But then, many private PC owners don't have much specialized software anyhow: they surf, write email, skype, print. And Linux seems to really be coming together these days - a typical distibution such as Ubuntu (free), Mandriva (EUR70) or Novell (USD50-120) come with features such as: build-in OpenOffice suite, same Firefox as on Windows, lots of decent produtivity apps, full development environment, a slick 3D desktop just as in Vista, free support via the community, sometimes you get a book,  update services for all software (not just the OS part), sometimes Windows game-emulation software, etc. and are immune to almost all viruses (which target Windows PCs).

The year 2007 will show us how these buy, hold and sell strategies in dealing with the new Microsoft product "Vista" will play out. I think it will be an equal split between buy and hold. It would be nice to see a bit more sell to put some pressure on the monopolist.

The bigger issue is however is: What should we do with Microsoft? After all Vista was late - very late (they blamed it on xyz+security) - an occurence that should set alarm-bells go off. For one thing, the company does not seem to kown where they are going (remember the the XP slogan, "Where do you want to go today?"). The other thing to keep in mind, is that Vista will push more WPA, WGA, DRM, Trusted Computing. These are all innovations playing into corporate hands not really the consumer. They also use some fairly restrictive licensing and online authentication to make sure to get cash from anyone using a line of their code. And how are they really treating their customers? - Next time somehing happens with your XP box, try to give them a call and help you. For most people, this will mean "If the product was already installed on your computer when you purchased it, contact your computer manufacturer." Since some of those don't give the best support either, keep that in mind if you choose the "buy" route above.

Please leave some comments on your approach: Do you buy, hold or sell?

By aschiffler | December 14, 2006 | News & Trends
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