Microsoft on Spyware
Novel Rocks, Microsoft Sweats
Accounting Software: The Future
Microsoft Buys Macs
Worms eat Windows
SCO sues IBM
RIAA vs Peer-to-peer
Office Depot Aids Monopoly
2003 & Beyond
You've got Klez!
MS Office .NET
The DoJ Settlement
Tech Stocks Tank
MS Guns for Intuit
.Net Gains Speed
Court of Appeals: Guilty!
Back in Operation
Is Linux for Your Business?
Microsoft Invades Accounting
Two things even Microsoft can't deny - Windows Vista is late, years
late, and most of the important features like the WinFS database filesystem
have been dropped in hopes of getting something out the door. Vista was
supposed have at least one version out in 2003 but now it's set for January
2007 and some analysts expect it to slip more (V1).
Oh, they say they'll get a corporate version out before the end of
2006, but only because they have to to avoid an avalanche of lawsuits over
corporate contracts. Nobody expects it to work right, but the corp guys
won't try deploying it for at least a year anyway, and by then maybe they
can fix it.
Vista probably marks the end of the line for Microsoft's
entire design philosophy and developmental process. Windows / Microsoft Office
/ SQL Server are all encompassing and tightly integrated to lock
customers in and competitors out. Disorderly in design, largely undocumented
and way too big to manage they have to spend most of their development
time just trying to keep this house of cards from collapsing.
An even bigger problems for Microsoft is that hardly anybody wants Vista.
Nobody who isn't in Microsoft's pay one way or another has had much good to
say about it. Right now it's rather a dog - and it'll probably still
be barking when finally released.
About the only real reason anyone seems able to come up with to move to
Vista is that XP's security sucks so bad it gets infested with scumware every
time you use the Internet, and sometimes even if you don't - surely Vista
will be better.
So what are the Beta testers saying?
- The new GUI (Graphic User Interface) is confusingly redesigned
from XP with everything you need even harder to find and get to. Even if you
set it to "Classic View" it's still a lot different. Its main function
seems to be to look different so people can see you're running Vista, not
XP. The traditional File Edit and View menus in the top menu bars are gone
and their functions scattered (fortunately that is one of
the things you can restore if you know where the settings are).
- Video for the GUI has two modes which will confuse support staff
to no end. The Vista Aero video with translucent window borders and other
eye candy is available only to those with at least 128 Megabytes of video
card memory and a brand new video card. Everyone else has to run in Vista
Basic mode. Basic takes more system RAM and is significantly slower than
the XP GUI. Video and desktop settings have been made more complex and
more difficult to access.
- Hardware requirements are intensive. As with previous Windows
versions Microsoft's minimum recommended configuration is absurdly weak
and will not run Vista usefully. Beta testers provide this minimum
configuration: 2.0 Megahertz CPU, 1 Gigabyte memory, 250 Gigabyte hard disk
and a brand new 256 Megabyte video card. More than this is better (Vista
uses about 1/2 Gigabyte of memory just sitting and doing nothing). This
means new computers for most Vista users, especially notebook users.
- Software Compatibility is very poor. Most major programs (and
many minor ones) will require upgrades to Vista versions. For instance
Quicken will not run on Vista because it conflicts with the Vista security
model. Microsoft's own applications won't run properly either, thus Office
2007 to be released simultaneously with Vista.
- Network Access to files or desktop on a Vista computer requires
someone to have already logged in on that computer. This is clearly to
inconvenience the zillions of small businesses that use a Windows workstation
as a server or for remote access. The cure is upgrading to a Longhorn Server.
Currently, if you attempt to access a machine that isn't logged in and access
is rejected, and you then go and log in on that computer, you still can't
access it until you reboot your computer. We'll see if this gets fixed.
- Wireless support is currently dismal and difficult to get to
work at all. This is probably something Microsoft can fix by January.
- Hardware support is currently poor, easily bested by Linux. While
support for last year's video cards probably can't be improved much, you
can expect last minute pressure on hardware vendors and within Microsoft
to improve support for other hardware - expect bugs. Vista installation takes
a veeeeery long time and currently often fails.
- The Security Model has been revised. On the plus side, normal
user accounts can do more so it's less necessary to run as administrator.
On the minus, side normal users are made the final line of defense and are
asked so many hard to understand questions they just get
in the habit of clicking "Yes" to everything. Of course software that
currently requires an administrator account to run at all (Quicken for
example) won't run. There are many other inconveniences beta testers are
griping about in this category.
- Networking is still a mess, often failing to show computers that
have recently joined the network and all the other failings of XP networking
- but managing the network has become more complex and access to network
management features has been buried deeper in the menu structure.
- The Search function has been criticized as difficult to use and
not very effective, comparing poorly to Google's desktop search.
- Versions - you will have to select among Home Basic, Home Premium,
Business, Enterprise and Ultimate. Whichever one you get (below Ultimate),
if you find a feature you need that isn't included you will be offered a
convenient extra cost upgrade. The Home Basic version which will probably
be on most low price computers is rather inadequate - have your credit card
ready - the pressure will be on to go all the way to Ultimate.
- Pricing has not yet been announced, but observers expect it to be,
aside from Home Basic, significantly higher than for Windows XP. Guesses are
around $350 for Ultimate combined with around $600 for Microsoft Office
So what does this all mean? For one thing it means Microsoft is
going to be bringing out Windows Vista, Microsoft Office 2007 and Longhorn
Server in the same time frame to resolve compatibility issues. Some analysts
are calling this "Microsoft's perfect storm", a confluence of events each
bad enough but all at the same time a disaster far greater than the sum
of its parts.
It means Linux has a serious window of opportunity, particularly in
business environments. It has been said, "If Vista doesn't come out, that's
good for Linux. If Vista does come out, that's good for Linux". Some
analysts say switching from XP to Vista will be more expensive than
switching from XP to Linux despite retraining costs for Linux.
While Linux is already giving Microsoft fits in the server room, Novell
in particular is polishing the Linux desktop to make it ready to take on
Vista (V3). IBM and Novell will be pushing Linux
to their substantial user
bases and as an incentive to new customers as well.
This comes at a particularly dangerous time for Microsoft when commerce
is moving to XML data formats which negate a great deal of the proprietary
leverage of the Microsoft Office formats and the automated functions
corporations have built on them. If Open Document
becomes the preferred format instead of Microsoft's proprietary Open XML, as
it well may, the proprietary advantage is gone and monopoly dies.
So, if you have to learn a whole new user interface and buy all new
software, why spend all that money when there's a low cost alternative that
has all the features you need?
Inertia, Entertainment and OEM Contracts, that's why. Those
are Microsoft's not-so-secret weapons. When home and small business PC
buyers get a new PC it will have Vista Home Basic already on it. Then they'll
upgrade to a higher priced Vista - it's so convenient! The kids will demand
Vista anyway so they can play the same games the other kids play.
So you'll be getting the same thing for home and work and Microsoft
will continue to become more wealthy - or will it? Microsoft's stock is down
even further these days and "Microsoft is underpriced" articles in the Wall
Street Journal have failed to move it up. Somebody isn't happy with how the
entrails read for Microsoft's future.
- Andrew Grygus