Well, today, apart from being Tuesday, marks the day that Windows Vista is officially released to the world. It’s been years in the making, delayed more times than I can remember, been slated left right and centre for having features cut and yet I’m sure it’ll be a huge success.
I’ve been using it since the beta versions last year and while it’s being released to the public today it has in fact been available for business and developers (like me) since November (if I remember correctly). Naturally I installed it on my work and home machines to try and live with it full time and see what it’s like (I’m curious that way). So having been a constant Vista user for a few months I thought it was about time I wrote down my thoughts.
Firstly, I’m not going to use the words “revolutionary”, “incredible” or “amazing” other than to say that it isn’t any of those. It’s just better.
The fancy graphics are indeed impressive, who wouldn’t be impressed by a 3-D windows switcher like this?
The glass-like effect of the windows is very slick as are the animations. But after a while you don’t even notice eye candy like that. I use my computer as a tool and so I’m not really that bothered how “nice” it looks, as long as it’s easy on my eye. Which brings me to my first point. It really is easier on the eye. I get eye strain when I stare at a computer for too long and have to wear glasses. Since switching to Vista, I haven’t needed to wear them once. I don’t know what they’ve done, but the text on the screen doesn’t strain my eyes any more!
Vista is like that. Compared to XP there are little improvements here and there that, on their own, don’t really amount to much. Like touch-up tools on the picture viewer, or the address bar in explorer acting like buttons so you can go up the hierarchy much more easily than before, or the Start menu being more logically laid out. But together these things add up to a better experience – it just gets in your way less like all good software should.
It’s undoubtedly more secure – I wrote before about how annoying User Account Control was, but I’m happier with it now. It doesn’t get in the way once your machine is set up and it’s reassuring that you’re running as a restricted user so if some rogue software does take over your machine, it can’t do any damage. Having said that, I haven’t had a virus or Trojan on any computer for many many years.
It’s also faster than Windows XP on the machines I use. My home desktop is an ageing dual P3 800MHz (which isn’t exactly fast by today’s standards) but Vista is noticeably snappier than XP was before it. My work machine is still as fast as always as is my laptop. It’s not often that new operating system is quicker in this day and age.
I know that an enormous amount of work has gone into Vista and underneath some huge advances have been made. But to the average user none of that is likely to make a whole lot of difference. And that’s the problem. If I had to go back to XP I could and while I might miss a thing or two about Vista, it wouldn’t matter that much to me. Make me go from XP to Windows 98 or 2000 and I’d complain a lot more!
If I had to fork out the upgrade cost out of my own pocket, I’d find it really hard to do so. At the end of the day Vista is a better operating system than XP, but it’s not really that much better on the surface and in day to day use. Trouble is though, Microsoft created a pretty good O/S in XP and to create a new one that seems as large a step forward as XP was is practically impossible.
That being said, I’m not about to go back to XP and it’s very easy to sit and say I “could”, but quite another to actually go through with it! It’s definitely a big step forward although it’s really a case of a huge number of tiny steps adding up to one big step. It’s been oft said that people hate change, yet people seem to have been expecting some revolutionary changes with Vista (most likely the Microsoft PR machine causing that perception) that it’s not living up to. However I think in reality people really want lots of small incremental changes that mean they know where they are, don’t feel lost, but make their lives easier. And I think Vista has managed to do that well, as well as looking very pleasing to the eye.
Contrast that with the revolutionary Office 2007 that’s also released today. It really is revolutionary since there are no toolbars or menus – everything has moved! When you start using it you really struggle to work out how to do anything at all. Your previous knowledge is rendered useless and you have to relearn everything from scratch. Sure, once you get there it’s better than it was before, but the learning curve is a frustrating nightmare and a lot of people have moaned about it. I think Microsoft are damned if they do and damned if they don’t at times!
Still, in many ways it’s the dawn of a new era. Only time will tell if it’s one for the better or the worse for Microsoft. If I were a betting man I’d say the former.