The Vista Follies: Windows' Tortured 2008

The successor to Windows XP crashed and burned. But as Windows 7 nears, Microsoft has made Vista less bad.

Mon, December 22, 2008

InfoWorld — Microsoft is used to criticism; after all, it's a standing joke that the third version of any Microsoft software is the first one that works right. But the backlash against Windows Vista in 2008 was unprecedented. The new OS had been out for a year, finding its way into new consumer systems through 2007 but not getting much adoption by business.

Throughout 2007, InfoWorld heard IT staffers and CTOs grumble about the new OS, despite some nice features for IT, such as unified install images. Application incompatibility, a UI rejiggered without any user benefit to its changes, and a bothersome security mechanism increasingly annoyed individual users and small-business consultants.

[ Can your PC run the forthcoming Windows 7? Download InfoWorld's Windows Sentinel tool and find out. ]

InfoWorld contributing editor Randall C. Kennedy's Vista tests showed that it took way more resources than XP. As his tests revealed, the new Aero interface was a major resource pig, but it wasn't the only one. And in his testing, Service Pack 1 didn't help matters any.

The Vista backlash begins
By January 2008, 11 months after Vista shipped to the broad market, InfoWorld launched its Save XP campaign.

Our rationale was that Microsoft had already extended XP's kill date from Dec. 31, 2007, to June 30, 2008, due to customer queasiness over Vista, so we had hoped it might do so again. It was not a birthday present that Microsoft liked.

By the time of the "Save XP" campaign, consumers and businesses alike were beginning to realize that they could not get XP past June 30 and thus no longer had the option to ignore Vista if they didn't like it. In the six months that followed, more than 210,000 people signed an online petition to keep XP available indefinitely, and the news media was full of reports of an anti-Vista backlash. Resistance to Vista grew, especially by businesses. Major analyst firms joined in, recommending that Microsoft delay XP's demise until 2009.

Microsoft defended Vista, saying its usability studies showed that users loved its new interface and that the new security approach was needed to finally force developers to abandon sloppy programming techniques—to be fair, Microsoft had been imploring developers since 1999 to change their behavior, to little effect.

But Microsoft was embarrassed by revelations that its own execs had trouble with Vista and that computers labeled "Vista Capable" in fact could not run Vista, calling into question Microsoft's honesty, as well as that of many PC makers. The result was a messy lawsuit that is still dragging on, as it became clear that Microsoft was split internally about the accuracy of its "Vista Capable" certification claims.

XP does die, sort of

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