As I have with every version of Windows since Windows 386, I followed Windows Vista from its early days to its release, writing books, teaching classes, and consulting about the OS that is essentially NT Workstation 6.0. In fact, I think I've picked apart Vista with a more fine-toothed comb than I have on many of its predecessors. And after all my experience with Vista, I must confess complete and total befuddlement at all of the anti-Vista rhetoric that seems to permeate the media like the smell of old cigarettes permeates the Las Vegas hotel room in which I'm writing this. (It's fall conference season, and it seems that every computer conference has decided to descend on Sin City this year.)
If you believe the various pundits, Vista is massively buggy; not being used by anyone; completely lacking in drivers to support virtually any past, present, or future hardware; and is so hated that Vista buyers are giving up and re-installing Windows XP on their systems in droves. This opprobrium would lead an outside observer to conclude that Bill Gates must be mere moments from committing seppuku. Personally, I don't care whether anyone moves to Vista or not. As I've observed many times, the pace of change in PC software was once so great that major changes and improvements in software came every year or so. And in, say, 1985 most PC experts would have scoffed at the possibility of using the same version of any piece of software for six years. That rate of change has slowed so much, however, that many people now use and get a lot of utility out of an eight-and-a-half-year-old piece of software--Windows 2000, and I still run across folks still running copies of its twelve-year-old predecessor, Windows NT Server 4.0. Given that, the idea that people wouldn't feel it necessary to abandon XP (which turns six this month) seems quite reasonable. Heck, if cars weren't subject to mechanical wear, I might drive my Honda Insight for the rest of my life, assuming that the dealer proves successful in un-doing the damage that a rather large stag mule deer did to it a couple of weeks ago. I don't pine for "upgrades" to my car because cars don't see a lot of innovation any more, and as software's innovation rate approaches that of cars, then we may well see 25-year-long life spans for PC software one day, provided that Microsoft stops using the threat of withholding product support as a cattle prod to make buyers upgrade.
Software buyers have always been a bit gun-shy not only of new OSs but of service packs and even patches to those OSs. For as long as I can remember, the same sequence of events occurs every time that Microsoft offers Service Pack X for one of its OSs. "Hey, I wouldn't take a chance on Service Pack X," some "experts" would say. "Nope," they'd advise, "I'd stay with Service Pack X-1." This advice sounds sage until I recall that a year ago, when Service Pack X-1 came out, those same experts counseled me to stay with Service Pack X-2, the "reliable" one. I think Dana Carvey's character "Garth" in the movie Wayne's World explained the situation best for some of those experts, when paraphrased: "We're techies. We fear change." So my journalistic brethren and sistren will always be able to find somebody, lots of somebodies, who view new versions of software with a jaundiced eye.
I guess what I'm saying is that I recall people dead set against NT 4.0, Windows 2000, 2003, and XP when they all originally came out, and there have always been people unhappy with the state of driver support for new OSs, and there have always been those who have upgraded and decided to return to their old OSs. People's reactions to Vista aren't terribly different from the reactions six years ago when XP arrived, so why are their reactions to Vista getting so much media attention?
Ah, I think I've got it. We must be experiencing one of those there's-nothing-good-to-write-about periods that we journalistas experience now and then. Yeah, that must be it. Where are those HP wiretapping incidents when we need them?
Send me your "I hate Vista" or "I love Vista" stories at [email protected] . I look forward to hearing from you!