It's been a rough couple of weeks for the operating system everyone loves to hate.
Whether Vista is, in fact, flopping or doing fine is a matter of debate. As Mary Jo Foley has pointed out in her blog, Vista may not be selling at twice the rate of Windows XP--Microsoft's original goal--but if revenues in the client division are any indication, it is hardly a failure.
Nevertheless Vista has suffered from a steady stream of bad PR stemming from the "Vista Capable" logo debacle, botched Service Pack updates, non-existent Ultimate add-ons, and a parade of executive departures. And the bad news just keeps on coming.
Earlier this month, Dell began offering a Windows Vista "downgrade" option on business desktops and laptops. If you choose this option, your PC comes with Windows XP pre-installed and a DVD so that you can upgrade to Vista Business or Ultimate "on your schedule." It's a nice option, but coming more than a year after the release of Vista it hardly seems like a vote of confidence. (I have a feeling this option may be what's behind the stories circulating today about Dell offering Windows XP Professional on business systems through 2012.)
At a Microsoft conference last week, CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly described Vista as a "work I progress" that still needed improvements in performance, compatibility and battery life. But, he said, it was too late to do much about the size of the thing. "We can't just set the dial back, but I think people wish we could," Ballmer said. "Vista is bigger than XP. It's going to stay bigger than XP. We have to make sure it doesn't get bigger still."
That is why Microsoft announced that it will make Windows XP available for an additional two years, specifically for "ultra low-cost PCs" such as the Asus Eee PC. Many of these systems lack the muscle to run Vista. (The cut-off date for all other types of PCs is still set for June 30, 2008.) Internal e-mails show that Microsoft's own analysts warned as early as 2006 that Vista's hefty system requirements may be out of sync with PC market that was shifting to notebooks, including cheaper, less powerful models.
Still it seemed like Vista might finally catch a break last week when Forrester recommended making the upgrade in a report titled "Building the Business Case for Windows Vista." Its rationale: There really is no alternative to Windows for businesses, Windows XP won’t be available for most PCs after June 30th, and the next version, Windows 7, will probably be late and no one really knows what it will include anyway.