How Do People Hate Vista? Let Me Count the Ways…

Last month, in my commentary "Why, Exactly, Does Everyone ‘Hate' Vista?", I enumerated a few reasons that I thought might explain people's disdain toward the new OS, and I asked for your thoughts on the matter. Many thanks to all of you who shared your Windows Vista stories with me! Here's a far-too-short (I've only got so much space per month!) distillation of your comments and some thoughts of my own.

"Vista has a different UI than does Windows XP, and it seems not to offer much of anything worth upgrading over." I'm not surprised to hear this argument from many people. As I've observed before, computer technology isn't changing as quickly as it used to, and every new version of Windows will probably offer fewer new things. XP is a very nice OS, and if we'd not seen anything new between 2001 and the 2012 arrival of Windows 7 (the current name for Vista's 2012 replacement), the world would keep turning, our businesses would keep running, and we'd all be fine. But I still don't understand why that justifies hating Vista. As I recall, users expressed a lot of vituperation about how XP's UI was so much "harder to understand" than Windows 2000's UI.

"Vista is slower than XP." The same could be said about virtually every OS when compared to an older one. Vista is intended to be Microsoft's desktop OS offering for the next five years or so, so it anticipates ever-faster machines--just as XP did when it was first released. The fact that computer hardware gets a bit faster every year is why XP seems zippy now but was derided as a dog by many when it first arrived. When Windows 7 comes around, it'll seem slow in comparison with Vista on 2012 hardware. Every new OS has this characteristic, so--again--why does it engender the "hate" that I've heard from readers?

"Vista's requirement for activation is annoying." I hate to say it, but, I told you so! When product activation arrived with XP, I understood its purpose--it's a copy-protection scheme that protects Microsoft's market revenues. As someone who makes his living from copyrighted materials, I chafe at every stolen copy of my stuff. But would I force every one of my readers to call me up and "validate" every one of my books that they've purchased before they could read them? Of course not; that would be obnoxious and irritating. But, as I argued back in 2001, Microsoft can do this to its customers for one reason and one reason only: It's a monopoly. Forcing us to deal with product activation was an abuse of monopoly power then, and it's one now.

Microsoft knew that it didn't have the power to make its large customers swallow product activation, so Redmond let volume customers essentially bypass activation. This, I argued, was a divide-and-conquer tactic, and I predicted that the next version of Windows would require activation for volume customers. I was right, but only partially so. Volume customers have to install something called a Key Management Server (KMS) system that does a sort of "pretend validation." The volume customer's KMS does for that customer's copies of Vista what Microsoft's product activation servers do for retail copies of XP and Vista: essentially "blessing" the copy of Windows to run for some period of time. Furthermore, the KMS server doesn't even really keep track of which systems it has activated nor of how many. So, what good is the system then? My guess is that Microsoft is slowly "setting the hook" in the mouths of volume customers, paving the way for a day--Windows 7? Windows 8?--when volume customers must host their own onsite Microsoft activation server.

So heck, if you want to hate Vista for its activation policies for volume customers, then go ahead and hate it. But remember that XP is really what you should find unacceptable, as it first forced that annoyance upon millions of home and small business users.

Meanwhile, I've found my own reason to chafe at Vista: Its increasingly frequent automatic updates. XP and the like seem only to get one bunch of security updates on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of the month. But hardly do three days go by without Vista nudging me to reboot it so that it can install Windows Defender updates. Defender needs to reboot to update its pattern files? Gimme a break.

Please keep sending me your Vista stories, and thanks!

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