To upgrade or not to upgrade: A digital family talks about its plans for Vista

Meet the in-laws, henceforth referred to as Oma and Opa (those are the customary references to grandparents in the Netherlands where my wife was born). Oma and Opa are not your everyday ordinary users of technology.

Meet the in-laws, henceforth referred to as Oma and Opa (those are the customary references to grandparents in the Netherlands where my wife was born). Oma and Opa are not your everyday ordinary users of technology. Although they are in their golden years, they are still very much a digital family. Neither one of them travels very far without taking their notebook PC with them. 

In the same shoulder bag as his PC, you'll often find that Opa keeps several different technology magazines with him at all times. The man has a vociferous appetite for information about new technology and outspends most people I know (including me) on an annual basis when it comes to buying the latest greatest. Although he has dedicated an uncommon budget to technology for people in his age group, he is unquestionably the Holy Grail of consumers that technology vendors from digital camera makers to Microsoft are targeting when they come out with something new (I know it's not true, but it seems like he has a new digital camera or a new video camera every time he comes). 

Oma and Opa were here in Massachusetts for a visit this past weekend and, as we were wrapping up dinner, I asked them if they were going to be upgrading to Vista. Much to my astonishment, Opa said as he pointed over my shoulder to his one year old Dell notebook, "I have it here!" Sure enough, he did (sidebar: some of the older notebooks like his Dell are incapable of running Vista's sleek Aero user interface). Not only had he already upgraded his notebook, he discovered in the process that Vista was too slow with only 512MB of RAM. So, after he installed Vista, he bumped it up to a gig of RAM and now he says things work well.

As I was asking him the next question about what he thought of Vista, I hardly imagined that I'd get an earful. But I did; an earful of extremely practical thinking for a technology consumer. A clearly well informed one at that (thanks to all that reading he does). Among the many stops he made as he looked to upgrade his notebook as well as a bunch of machines at home was Microsoft Vista upgrade advisor. And then Oma jumped in. Over in the Netherlands, a lot has been written in the local publications about Vista and, as a result of what she's read, she's standing pat with XP. But, while her reasoning is actually quite practical, her experience is also a perfect example of the difficult challenge that lay ahead for Microsoft as well as system manufacturers hoping to parlay Vista's availability into a boost in revenues. Their reasons remind me of this perversion of an old saying: perfect is the enemy of good enough.

So colorful and candid were they in their discussion that I asked them to stop so I could run and get the digital recorder. With their permission, here is a downloadable podcast of what they said (or, you can use our podcast player above to stream it). Not only might it echo what many potential buyers of Vista are thinking, but it's also worth a listen if you're at a technology company (not just Microsoft). Opa even has a message for Bill and Steve.

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