Last Friday Robert McLaws (Windows Now) posted an interesting piece of Windows Vista as a response to a news item on AP entitled Six months on, Vista users still griping. The piece is based on Chris Pirillo's experiences with Vista. Both pieces are worth a read but one thing that struck me was how McLaws closed his post:
So, while it may be fun to write a sensationalist article about the "problems" with Vista. It's also great that this article gets Chris some exposure right before Gnomedex. But unless the AP is going to have Zogby do a customer satisfaction survey (or unless they do some, uh, investigative reporting, and get both sides of the story), I think the best way to explain the public's experiences with Vista is "Your Mileage May Vary". [emphasis added]
Your Mileage May Vary! Is this really the best we can expect from Vista? Is this really good enough from a 21st century operating system?
The two sides of the argument here are interesting. Here's McLaws' take on Vista:
I've been using Windows Vista for just as long as Chris has (if not longer), and while my beta testing problems were well documented, I haven't had too many issues since RTM. I'm running with UAC on, and I don't run into UAC prompts all that often. I've rarely had driver issues (except for the first few weeks when Acer didn't update their US support site), and all three machines in my house are running it. Overall, I love Windows Vista, and I can't stand touching Windows XP. Heck, my mom and kid sister use it every day too, and they've hardly ever called me about tech-support issues.
And here's Pirillo's take on Vista:
Chris Pirillo leaned away from his webcam and pointed to his printer/scanner/fax machine, which stopped scanning and faxing after he installed Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows Vista operating system.
"I can't live in Vista if the software that I use in my life for productivity does not work," said Pirillo, in the third minute of a 52-minute video he posted on YouTube.
Both views are opinion based on personal experience. Both are equally valid, and both are valuable to readers wanting to know what to expect from Vista (because, after all, take away opinion pieces like this and all you have left is Microsoft's own take on the OS). I can also toss my own mixed feelings about Vista into the public arena (as I have done, on several occasions) in the hope that this helps others solve problems, or at least helps them come to a decision as to whether Vista is right for them or not at present.
I think that the negative press Vista is getting comes primarily as a result of subtle but important social changes since the launch of XP back in 2001. First, while most people coming into contact with XP had an opinion about it compared to their previous operating system, it wasn't as easy for these people to get those opinions out into the wild and in front of others as it is today. Nowadays it's a trivial task to share your thoughts and opinions through web pages, blogs and forums and get those opinions in front of thousands of pairs of eyeballs, and today users aren't afraid to tell others how they feel about something.
The second difference is that the average Vista home PC user is more tech savvy than the average XP home user back in 2001. More people have an expectation that they can move hardware and software from their existing XP systems to Vista, and this means more people are having problems. Chris Pirillo's a pretty smart guy, and if he's having problems with his printer/scanner/fax machine, he's not going to be the only one. Sure, he nit-picks a lot of small stuff, but that shouldn't be used as an excuse to trivialize the important points he raises.
I'm really bothered by the fact that McLaws' chose to choose the phrase "Your Mileage May Vary" because it sounds so inadequate and is almost telling us that we should give up on expecting Windows to offer a high level of compatibility, performance and reliability and just settle for something less.
If that's really the best people can expect from Vista then maybe sticking with XP (or switching back to it) is the right thing to do. After all, what matters is productivity, not what operating system you happen to be using.
Personal note: For the record.the Windows Experience Rating score of my main Vista machine is 5.1 and the reliability index is 9.92. It was dragged down from a perfect 10 a few weeks ago when I installed Safari on it.