On the trail of the $1000 Vista PC

On the trail of the $1000 Vista PC

Summary: Yesterday, I debuted my Vista Mythbusters series with a discussion of how much hardware you really need to run Windows Vista. Today, I spotted that myth in the wild. A so-called enterprise user claims that "Vista will NEVER run on a $1000 PC." Oh really? Check out my shopping list.

TOPICS: Hardware

Mary Jo Foley is normally one of the smartest, most perceptive Microsoft watchers around. So I was particularly baffled when I read this post: What Is the Business Case for Upgrading to Vista? It's a transcript of a conversation she had via IM with an enterprise user on the subject of how Microsoft will make the business case for Windows Vista:

MR. Biz: vista will NEVER run on a $1000 PC
MR. Biz: maybe a $1500 PC, but that one doesn't exist Yet
MR. Biz: there aren't cheap dual cores yet
MR. Biz: price point is still around $2000
MJF: u are right

Ironic, isn't it, that I devoted a whole column to this very myth yesterday, and here it pops up on one of the most popular tech sites today.

Vista will never run on a $1000 PC? Ha. I just went over to Dell's website and priced out an Optiplex GX620DT, their most popular business-based configuration (and guaranteed to run Windows Vista). Here are the specs:

  • Pentium D 820 dual-core CPU
  • Windows XP Professional SP2 with media
  • 1GB DDR2 non-ECC RAM
  • 160GB SATA 3 drive
  • 16X DVD
  • USB keyboard and mouse
  • Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet NIC
  • 3 Year Business Standard support
  • Asset Recovery, 2 pieces
  • No monitor (17-inch flat panel LCD available for $149)

Price as configured? $959. That is, by the way, a pretty smokin' business machine. And we're talking onesy-twosy prices here. Something tells me if you bought a few hundred of these you could get that price down below $900. Since we already know that Windows Vista Business will cost about the same as Windows XP Professional or perhaps a little less, the cost of the OS is a non-issue.

And that's for a well-built business PC, not a corner-cutting consumer box. If you're a SOHO buyer willing to purchase from the retail channel, you can take your pick of inexpensive dual-core machines today, for well under $1000. The Deals folder in my RSS reader today included a Dell Inspiron E1505 notebook with Intel Core Duo processor for $629 with free shipping and a Dell Dimension 9200 desktop with Core 2 Duo and a 19" LCD monitor for $799 with free shipping. (Both machines come with 512MB of RAM and can be upgraded to 1GB for $65-80). Newegg.com is selling an Acer TravelMate TM4222 notebook with an Intel Core Duo, 1GB of RAM, and 120GB HDD for $895 with $12.34 shipping.

Any one of those PCs will run Windows Vista exceptionally well and should have a lifespan of three to five years. I don't know where Mr. Biz is shopping, but he needs to do a little more homework. These days, a $1000 PC offers exceptional performance. Hell, for the $2000 price point that Mr. Biz is talking about, you could probably put together a dual-Xeon system!

Hmmm. I wonder whether Mr. Biz works for FUD Industries...

Update 1-Sep: Be sure to read the reactions by Nathan Weinberg and Adrian Kingsley-Hughes.

Topic: Hardware

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  • You made a funny.

    You used Dell and well-built in the same column. I'm still laughing.
    You should consider stand-up.
  • The cheap dual core laptops are smoking once you upgrade video

    You can customize those cheap sub-$700 Core Duo laptops with a nice 128 MB on board video card for about $70. Bump up the RAM to 1 GB. Maybe upgrade the display a little bit and bump up the hard drive 1 notch. It will knock the price up to about $900 but it will be a smoking machine.

    Then you add a $40 2GB flash card to the system and put Vista on steroids making it faster and smoother than Windows XP.

    That's still well under $1000 for a smoking Vista machine that will run full Aero. Mary was beating on the Vista graphics requirements Myth for some time. Aero Glass is also not an absolute business requirement.
    • Still, a laptop that runs XP or Linux quite well can be had for $400 to 500

      A desktop that runs XP or Linux quite well can be had for under $300. That together with the fact that businesses do not need (or want) any of the fancy graphics, makes Vista a no starter in the enterprise. That simple.
      • Or, to put it another way...

        A system built using modern technology will cost more than a system using slightly outdated technology.
        Ed Bott
        • No, you can run current versions of Linux on that hardware. The problem

          is the bloated OS. Corporations wanted an updated OS that does not require a lot of hardware. Again, Microsoft delivering what they want to deliver, and not what the customers want.
          • Horsefeathers!

            [b]No, you can run current versions of Linux on that hardware. The problem
            is the bloated OS. Corporations wanted an updated OS that does not require a lot of hardware. Again, Microsoft delivering what they want to deliver, and not what the customers want.[/b]

            Or you can just run Vista Basic which is lacking a lot of the graphical bells and whistles.

            Even with all the "bloat", Vista is a very nimble OS. That's including all the debug code embedded into Beta 2. Given what I've heard about later builds, I'll wager it's even faster now than it was in June.
          • RE: Horsefeathers!

            >>...Or you can just run Vista Basic which is
            lacking a lot of the graphical bells and

            If you have to run Windows, the point is moot.
            However, if you DO have a choice, Linux, any
            Linux distribution, has more raw capability than
            Vista Business and is the smart place to put your
        • My business desktop is a 1.8 GHz P4 running W2K.

          And the most popular upgrades in this office are RAM, larger monitors and graphics cards to use them at their optimal resolutions. My desktop works, and works well, so there's not even a business case for spending that $300 for a new XP machine, let alone $1000 for a machine that is Vista-capable.

          You might call the technology "outdated", but it is more than adequate for an awful lot of people.
          • Sheesh...

            You don't need to spend $1000 for a new box. You SHOULD be able to upgrade the RAM to 512 or 1 GB and it should run fine.
          • I have. It does. That's my point. (NT)

      • Don't give me that


        Don't tell me Desktop Linux is lean on hardware, they can barely get the boot times under a minute and a half which is 3 times longer than Windows XP. Memory requirements on a modern Linux distro with KDE or Gnome requires just as much hardware as Vista.
        • He said "[b]XP[/b] or Linux", so there's no need to snap.

          And he believe his points were (a) "price" and (b) "business doesn't need Vista's 3D desktop", so the answer to your entire "Don't tell me ..." rant is:

          [u]He didn't.[/u]
        • Don't be economical with the truth George ...

          ... XP gets the background wallpaper up in 10-20 seconds but it is fairly unusable for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute while it starts up everything else and networking is the LAST service it starts so you won't do anything straight off.

          Ever notice that you don't get an arrow mouse after startup? You get the egg timer.

          For all *practical* purposes the boot times are about the same and you're just showing your prejudices... ;-)
          • Only if you got junk loaded

            On my systems, it's ready to go in 30 seconds. No timers, it's ready to go. In the link I posted on the shootout, I did not stop the clock until Windows XP was ready to use.
        • "Ou Stats [tm]" return

          Even worse, you're using your own stats to back up your own argument.

          I do believe the "boot time stat" has been thoroughly debunked as ANY measure of performance.
          Robert Crocker
          • Boot time?

            Boot time? What is this boot time? As an OSX user, I very rarely reboot my machine. Why would this be considered a good measure of performance?
            tic swayback
          • Just ignore the "straw man" reply, I think.

            Personally, I'm [i]still[/i] trying to see the relevance of George's reply to Donnie's original post, which was wondering why a business user would want to pay ~$1000 dollars for a Vista machine just for the sake of its Aero graphics.
          • Aero is not a requirement

            Even if Aero is a requirement, I have it running on a 3 year old computer just fine. Aero is not the only thing about Vista. There are plenty of other reasons to upgrade.
          • Since our company didn't even see anything compelling in WinXP...

            ... I will the recommendation of there being "plenty of other reasons to upgrade" under advisement. (Meaning that I know that our IT department would reimage new computers with Vista preinstalled to W2K so fast, it would make their disks spin.)
          • your own straw man: you don't *have* to have aero to run vista

            therefore you don't need to spend $1000 to run vista.
            You can run it fine without aero on a 512Meg 1.5MHz CPU, which is what a lot of people run XP with.
            So you've made your own straw man here.

            The article is about what kind of machine you'd get for $1000, and the answer is a very very fast machine, pretty soon the Dell in the article will ship with Vista OEM.

            To a lot of corporations, upgrading OS is probably a good time to upgrade PC. So for $1000 per seat (note all sorts of tax breaks like writing off value over a few years against profit mean the corporation's costs are actually about $500). $500 over three years is a no brainer.
            They spend more refurbishing cubicle seperators.