By Jon Honeyball
So Microsoft has put the finishing touches to Vista, and the disk duplicating machines are ready to roll. Bill Gates claimed this was the most expensive software development program ever, comparable to the cost of putting a man on the Moon. The big question is whether Microsoft has got value for money, and we have an operating system that will make our eyes stick out on stalks.
The rest of this feature will be filled with all the things that Microsoft has put into Vista. And the list is long and extremely impressive. A completely new desktop compositing engine, new driver model, support across the board for 32-bit and 64-bit, let alone leading-edge security facilities such as BitLocker, and a whole raft of online service offerings too.
There’ll be many who will accept Vista with a huge sigh of relief and move as soon as possible. Those working in the financial services area, for example, might well find themselves forced to adopt long-overdue hard disk encryption on their laptops. And the existing Encrypted NTFS might not be strong enough to satisfy the regulators.
The problem is Vista is nowhere near radical enough. The first mistake that Microsoft made was to assume that Service Pack 2 of XP would be enough to stop the security nightmare from worsening. Microsoft’s decision to rip off all the default security from XP, especially in the Home product, is one that is haunting it. And rightly so. SP2 was a good start, but went nowhere near far enough. Microsoft should have concentrated on a High Security SP3, or “Homeland Security” version as I call it, to nail down the problems. Yes, many third-party applications would have broken, but this issue needs to be confronted. Then it should have decided to deliver a “brand new” OS called Vista targeted solely at the emerging dual-core 64-bit platform.
Instead, Microsoft’s marketing people ran the show, and took the door off the stable once again. 32-bit Vista is aimed at the upgrade marketplace, but doesn’t fully address the security issues. Worse still, Microsoft backed down over the driver signing issue, thus allowing the world to be flooded with half-tested unsigned drivers, creating a sea of kernal-mode code which is beta. No wonder users have stability issues. Worse still, instead of nailing the bad third-party applications and being prepared to name-and-shame, the marketers, worried about their joint marketing budgets, capitulated. Vista is now riddled with workarounds and fixes to help rubbish programs run. Instead of grasping the nettle, Microsoft has backed down.
And then there’s the whole Live strategy. Microsoft is pushing its way into the already crowded and deeply dark and mysterious marketplace that is the anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam world. Now it’s trying to make customers pay to have their machines “protected” from the infections and spyware that shouldn’t be infecting their machines in the first place.
Worse still, what Vista is actually all about has been watered down, compromised and flushed down the pan. Yes, many of these problems are hard to fix, but the biggest software company in the world can’t continue to dither about future directions for core technologies like data storage. Microsoft offered up WinFS, which showed huge promise, only for the team to weaken and delay. First, it was going to be in the shrinkwrap. And then six months later. And now it’s gone, wrapped into a development platform toolset that might see the light of day at some point in the future.
For many potential users, Vista is too little, too late, and an atrocious indictment of how Microsoft has been out of control for the past six years. There are companies that have already given Microsoft money for Vista as part of their rolling licensing agreement, and yet they see the real business benefit coming from Office 2007 and Office Server first, neither of which require Vista on the desktop. To have a major Windows release in third place shows either that the days of needing a new core operating system are over or that the dithering and hand-wringing have finally caught up with Microsoft.
Maybe I should be reassured that those likely to be responsible for this mess are leaving, or have already left, Microsoft. But the truth is that Redmond has dug itself into a hole, and it’s unclear whether it knows how to climb out again, especially in the home/SoHo environment. Timelines for major and minor OS releases, both on the client and server side, have come and gone. Only time will tell whether Microsoft’s chosen strategy will work.
Vista sucks, you should get a mac..
Check out this video of how to properly load Vista: