Of the many claims made for Vista, its promised credentials for green computing rank with the most fanciful. Yet that's never stopped a marketing department, and so we were treated to just such a proposal last week from the computer reseller PC World.
Trying to create the world's most environmentally friendly PC is in itself an interesting, if curiously complex, idea. Apart from Fujitsu Siemens' Esprimo range, few of the big brands have taken on such a task. Dell and HP have had recycling schemes in place since the late 1990s but haven't done much in the way of creating PCs that use less energy or can be disposed of more easily. Price and the upgrade cycle, rather than sustainability, have always been the main forces shaping PC production.
Closer inspection of PC World's announcement does little to persuade that the usual status quo has shifted at all. Despite a confident opening where the company talks about sustainability, carbon neutrality and recycling, the details of what will happen are missing. The only real commitment in the press release is that the company plans to build its greenest PC around Microsoft Vista.
This is as smart as building a hybrid car around a jet engine. A survey by US IT services company Softchoice last year showed just how power hungry Vista will be. At Windows XP's launch, for example, the minimum CPU requirements were 75 percent greater than those for the operating system it replaced, Windows 2000. Vista's minimum CPU requirements are 243 percent larger than that of XP. Of 113,000 desktops checked from over 400 US organisations, 50 percent of the machines wouldn't be able to meet the basic Vista requirements. Around 97 percent wouldn't be sufficiently high spec to run the "premium" requirements. An operating system that demands wholesale disposal of perfectly functional computers? The only green aspect of that is the colour of anyone naive enough to swallow it.
So why on earth is PC World using this OS as the basis for a green machine, when desktop Linux or any previous Microsoft OS would have been an altogether saner choice? Microsoft has been pushing the new power management aspects of Vista, which it claims should make it easier for users and IT departments to put their PCs to sleep when not in use. With Windows XP it was relatively easy for third-party applications to override a user's PC sleep settings. But with Vista, Microsoft claims that...