How to make sweet lemonade out of sour Vista lemons

How to make sweet lemonade out of sour Vista lemons

Summary: In a previous article I talked about some of the ways Microsoft might be able to learn from its mistakes with Windows Vista and deliver a winner with Windows 7. I also hit pretty close to home with a number of readers when I talked about the real world problems my own Mother-in-law has been having with her Vista machine -- and how I may have to eventually downgrade her to XP.


lenonade1.jpgIn a previous article I talked about some of the ways Microsoft might be able to learn from its mistakes with Windows Vista and deliver a winner with Windows 7. I also hit pretty close to home with a number of readers when I talked about the real world problems my own Mother-in-law has been having with her Vista machine -- and how I may have to eventually downgrade her to XP. So the question is -- how do we get past this? How do we end the negative sentiments that people have about Vista? Clearly, this is not just a perception is reality thing. Many, many industry pundits, analysts and experts alike have noted that Vista has a large number of compatibility, performance and usability issues, this despite Microsoft's best efforts to patch the system with SP1. Some people arguably have experienced more of these Vista problems than others, which vary depending entirely on the hardware they have and the software they actually run.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

My own Mother-In-Law is having a horrible time with Vista because she uses a critical vertical application for the Real Estate industry that runs on a web site that was never designed to run on Vista and Internet Explorer 7, and is experiencing constant bugs with the latest Vista updates to AOL Instant Messenger. I can't run Vista on my own laptop because none of my company's internal applications and support stack are certified to work with it and Office 2007 and Visio 2007 works just fine on XP. This situation is extremely common, as many large companies have standardized builds of Windows with a specific stack of stuff that needs to be deployed to many thousands of people.

bloatware.jpg(Click on left photo for video) Other people have problems running specific applications and utilities that are deal breakers for Vista, such as VPN clients and home-grown legacy applications that were built for older versions of Windows and won't function correctly in Vista due to its security model or other quirks. At the end of the day, most people that are running the new OS have problems with SOMETHING on Vista, be it an actual incompatibility or usability annoyances and it doesn't seem to matter if it's on new systems that have it preloaded or on upgraded machines. This is not a mountains-out-of-a-molehill-don't-worry-we'll-get-past-this-soon problem. These are real problems, they are documented all over the industry and in test labs in every major IT department in large corporations, and all signs have led to the sad truth that its the most painful Windows transition we've ever had to make. The Vista apologists can flame the hell out of me, I don't care, because I'm telling it like it is. I wear asbestos-lined underwear and I'm from New Jersey. I can handle the abuse, trust me.

So with Vista being what it is, what do we do? Clearly, for consumers who buy new PCs, there isn't much choice in the matter.  Those folks are are getting Vista by default (well, okay, unless they buy a Dell or Lenovo machine and can get Linux as an installable option) unless their OEM can offer them some sort of downgrade certificate at extra cost. This is only a realistic option until April of 2009, when the entitlements run out for OEMs.

Corporations with Enterprise Agreements can continue to use XP until 2014, so they can continue to wait things out a bit  -- at least until their current crop of PC's has to be replaced and the new systems absolutely won't run XP bare-metal anymore. They could also decide to get creative and go with a virtual infrastructure with centralized virtualized desktops and thin clients -- a real alternative that CIOs are actually considering now.

Given these challenges, what can Microsoft itself do to entice people now to go out and get new Vista systems or upgrade their existing systems given all the bad press?

As I suggested with a possible design strategy for Windows 7, I still think virtualization is the answer. Yeah, I know, I think virtualization is the answer to everything -- it will deliver world peace and end world hunger and the energy crisis -- but bear with me for a moment. What if Microsoft were to offer a free download of an XP SP3 Virtual Machine image that any Vista user can use to run their legacy apps on, in a mature environment? This way, they'd be able to take advantage of all of Vista's new features, plus have the safety of a "sandboxed" XP environment to run those sticky apps that break Vista.

And although Microsoft has said they aren't going to port Hyper-V to Vista in a "lite" version (which would be my preference, since we now know the basic technology works well) they could partner with a company like Sun -- who they already have a technology sharing alliance with -- and provide xVM VirtualBox 1.6 as a free download with the pre-baked XP3 VM, which could be stripped down and optimized so it doesn't eat up a ton of memory. (EDIT: They could certainly use their own Virtual PC 2007 as well, but its not as versatile or as high performance as VirtualBox.)  And to sweeten the pot even further, I'd partner with a major memory vendor like Crucial/Micron or Kingston to offer RAM upgrades at a discounted price for anyone with a legit Vista license.

What else can Microsoft do to make lemonade out of lemons? Talk Back and let me know.

The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • When you're locked in to a proprietary...

    solution you have no where else to go. It's just a matter of when do you break the cycle. With the killing of XP, I would say this would be a great time.

    If you upgrade your apps to Vista compatibility, you may be lucky enough to run them on MS's next OS. But the talk of the OS after that will break those apps. When does a company quit throwing their money down the drain?

    It should not be the money pit that it has become. But it may always be so if you keep chasing Microsoft.
    • Not really necessary to bother with Windows ME version 2 at all.

      Or you simply DUMP Microsoft and go Linux or Mac, with a virtual XP machine inside.
      • with a virtual XP machine inside.

        If you are going back to XP why bother with the rest of it?

        This is _NOT_ dumping microsoft. You are still running microsoft and you are still just as tied to it as you ever where!

        You are also tied to crappy piece custom of software that nobody wants to update and that is most likely a security problem.

        No matter what else you decide to do you need to dig yourself out of that hole or have plans in place to do so with the least pain.
        • Think of XP Under Virtualization as Patches for MicroShaft Addiction

          You move to OSX or Linux w/XP running under virtualization, b/c you can't conceive of a world w/out M$ apps. But...soon enough, you sort of start to use XP less and less as you use OSX or Linux more often b/c you're getting comfortable w/it - until finally, you just step off the MicroShaft merry-go-round altogether! :D
          • until finally, you just step off the MicroShaft merry-go-round altogether

            Once I retire I may do just that but until then I and a lot of others need to be able to run software that is windows centric and I don't need two OSs on one machine. Not when one of them can get the job done.
      • No, this isn't ME version 2.

        Did you try ME? There is no comparison.

        Currently, Vista actually works pretty decently except for some applications that won't run on it.

        It is not like ME at all. Did you actually try ME and also try Vista? ME would actually self destruct at a moments notice. There is no comparison.

        I chalk this one up to growing pains and some poor Microsoft decisions. No, this is not ME version 2.
    • All software solutions are proprietary

      Or can you run Windows apps on Linux without buying Windows?

      And, no, WINE is not an appropriate answer if you want to retain
      any credibility with people who actually dwell in reality.
      • Who says you need to run Windows apps?

        Most people prefer to since it is what they are familiar with, but a lot of them don't NEED to.

        Not to say there is anything wrong with having a preference, but your statement relies on a completely warped point of view.
        Michael Kelly
        • Irrelevant to the point

          Even with open data standards, software is still proprietary
          because Software A doesn't support all the features of Software B
          and so using A to open a file made in B is less than satisfactory.
          • Who says you use all the features?

            If it was necessary to use all the features of software A, so that files created for A doesn't work in B, then there wouldn't be such a thing as the world wide web. Because that's what it's all about.
        • lot of them don't NEED to.

          Since the original post was about exactly that problem your point is what? That you didn't read?

          If he could have solved his problem by installing ubuntu I would think he would have been smart enough to do it.

          Because the person he is trying to help seems to be tied to company run by .... that locked them into software they can't or won't change or update I think his best bet is to install XP.
      • Why do you hate wine?

        I always see you bashing WINE in these forums. Why? I run numerous applications for my work in wine without issue. I run several games at home in wine as well.
        • I find it humours that people complain about Vista compatibility yet...

          ...recommend a "solution" which has less compatability than the item they're faulting.

          WINE is a nice effort but has limited application support. It's not a good solution for most people.
        • Because

          wine is crap. Pure and simple. You're better served running
          VMWare or Parallels and an actual copy of Windows
          • .....

            Uh, that kind of defeats the purpose numbnuts. ]:)
            Linux User 147560
          • Uh, that kind of defeats the purpose numbnuts.

            Yours or hers? She just wants to be able to use the software required to do her job.

            I'd just say install XP on the machine she has. It will cost less.
          • Have you tried CrossOver Linux ?

            I have downloaded the software, and I am going to try it on a VM of gOS and Ubuntu, it may be a great way to get my kids used to something different before they get ingrained to Windows. They compatibility of apps looks good and they support a lot of Windows based games.

      • True, but....

        At present there is no genuine reason to develop applications that aren't portable, independent of the platform.

        Photoshop, for example, works almost exactly the same on MAC as it does on Windows - so does most of the Adobe line.

        What limits our options here is the important 3rd party application base that only runs on Windows. They are largely what made Windows important to users that rely upon them, like AutoCAD, 3DS Max, etc.

        If the 3rd party application vendors ever learned that portable application development was always important (even portability among Windows versions was important), the logical extension of platform independence would put them into a position of being a solution to the Vista question. If everything we ran were portable, we could choose Linux or Apple without consequence.

        As a developer of 27 years, I know quite well that portable application development is simply a choice, not a significant cost. Many many argue to the contrary, but it would be only because they've not witnessed the successful creation of portable applications like Photoshop, Illustrator and the like.

        Proprietary, perhaps, yes. Non-portable - that was just a bad decision repeated so many times that WE are limited in our options.

        It does take considerable resource to port a significant application either to another platform, or from a platform dependent version to an independent version - perhaps too high a cost for many.

        Just think how silly the Vista question would look if over 75% of the applications ran on multiple platforms. Microsoft wouldn't be a monopoly and we'd simply move to OS/X or Linux, and Windows would actually have to compete and therefore produce a better OS to get our attention.

        The way it is, we're locked in if we need any of these applications.

        For those just browsing the net, word processing, checking email - the Linuxed based Asus Eee PC has proven the OS isn't that important.
        • The real problem is in Microsoft

          because they "encourage" the developers to use their
          solutions which are usually incompatible with the rest of
          the world's IT, e.g. Direct3D (games) and the infamously
          distorted MS-HTML and MS-javascript just to name a few
          annoyances for the rest of us. This is unique for MS.

          The author of this article don't seem to understand that
          when something doesn't work well enough then in normal
          circumstances the average consumer should choose
          something better, which means most of the alternatives.

          Mac OS X, is it so hard to see?
          • Mac OS X

            Is fine for consumers. Try to run some Win32-based multimillion-dollar vertical apps on it or any major corporate web-based .NET or J2EE app on it without using some sort of thin client on top of it and you might have a few wee problems. That's just a hunch.