Windows Vista, Friend or Foe?

by Kyle  

Microsoft's first new consumer operating system in five years is set to be released tomorrow (January 30th, my Birthday). Although the final version was finished back on November 30th, a few months is needed for the major computer vendors to prepare their systems for production. As of now it looks as though the major vendors like Dell, Lenovo, and HP have readied their lines and are already selling systems with the much anticipated new operating system.

Update: It appears that the Vista launch was scheduled for earlier tonight. More information about the launch is available here.

The logo for the new Microsoft operating system, Windows Vista.

I have personally used Vista versions Beta 1, Beta 2, RC 1, RC 2, and Final Business Edition, and I must say that I'm not very impressed. Although a lot has changed since Windows XP, not in enough ways to make the steep upgrade and retail costs worth it. So far I have only invested $10 in my Vista experience for shipping the Lenovo upgrade to Vista Business (which won't ship until March anyway). Although I'd like to upgrade that version to Vista Ultimate when it arrives (using the new Anytime Upgrade feature), I think the $139 upgrade price from Business to Ultimate is still too steep given the few added features. For a full comparison of the different editions and upgrade prices, see the links below.

Although I'm not currently running Vista on my laptop, I do plan to run it full-time in the very near future. My first attempts at installing it went pretty well, but overall I just needed to go back to XP (Please note that there isn't an easy way to roll back to XP, I used an imaging software to backup my XP install). Although the major drivers weren't an issue since Windows Vista has almost all of them built in, I couldn't help but be disappointed by the fact that none of my HP printers have drivers yet. Granted this all happened before final release, I guess I just expected a little bit more from HP and Microsoft. Also, not all of the utilities that I've grown to love on my ThinkPad have been upgraded yet, but with the progress Lenovo has been making I'm sure they will be done very soon.

The biggest downfall of Vista I've seen so far is battery life with laptops. Since my laptop gets almost 6-hours running Windows XP, it's not too bad in Vista. Even so, my battery life drops to around 4-hours when running Vista using all of the power management features that it offers. Granted I did run Aero Glass (3D rendered using the GPU) all the time, I have read that disabling it only marginally increases battery life. This is something that won't hold me back from upgrading, but it is something I would like to see improved sooner rather than later.

As far as new applications, I was rather impressed with the new set of default software. Windows Mail, the replacement for Outlook Express, did get a major overhaul and I find it much easier and more enjoyable to use. Both a Windows Calendar and Windows Contacts application have been added to the mix and in brief testing they both seemed to work pretty well. The Windows Photo viewer has been beefed up quite a bit and now has entry-level organization features found in other free applications like Google's Picasa or Adobe's Photoshop Album. Although it can be convenient, I find the Windows Sidebar (and similarly the Mac OSX Dashboard) to be quite useless and a waste of system resources, but that's a more individual opinion. There are other minor application changes and additions, but none of them really caught my eye.

Overall I think that Windows Vista is a logical next step forward for Microsoft, but the five-year development time is far too long given the marginal amount of new features. Of all the new features, none are very revolutionary. Name a feature in Vista and it's pretty easy to cite the source. For most (but not all) of the features, the source is Mac OSX. Even if I don't really agree with everything Apple does, Steve Jobs had it right when he spoke of "Redmond's Photocopiers."

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