Isn’t interesting how all Vista arguments for or against lead around to Rome, er, Apple? Even NBC’s Today Show gave almost as much attention to Steve Jobs as they did to Bill Gates in their studio on Monday, talking about the launch of the new Windows.
The reality is that it’s unrealistic to evaluate whether or not to upgrade to Vista based on a comparison to Mac OS X or Linux. If someone is talking about the state of healthcare in the United States, is moving to Canada really an option? No, there’s more to the decision to move than an opinion on the state of socialized medicine. Likewise, there’s more that goes into a computing platform switch than the operating system alone. Sometimes, you simply have to make the best of a situation, without having the option to pick the best of all situations.
So now, fellow web working Windows XP-or-earlier users who aren’t necessarily considering a fulltime switch to Mac or Linux, let’s look at 10 good reasons to consider the upgrade to Vista. While we’re at it, let’s also consider 10 reasons it may be a better idea to wait this one out. I promise not to throw in comparisons to other non-Windows operating systems if you don’t…deal?
10 reasons for Vista NOW!
1. New Interface Makes Sense – Whether your computer can handle the Aero effects or not, Vista is smooth. It feels lighter and more refined than XP. You can tell that a great deal of thought and testing went into making the user experience the best it could be in Windows. It makes XP feel even clunkier than it already is. I appreciate the integrated preview (aka “live icons”) in Windows Explorer. How nice it is to see exactly what’s in the document named “Review123546version6.doc” without having to open it.
2. Easier to Navigate Security Settings – There is no such thing as a 100% safe and bullet-proof computer operating system. Yes, Mac OS X folks who are still reading, I’m talking to you, too. Microsoft took a nice leap forward with XP SP 2 in combining security features under one roof for an at-a-glance view of firewall, update settings and virus protection status. Vista goes a step further and puts even more settings in one easy-to-access screen.
3. Windows Photo Gallery – Windows XP already recognizes a folder full of images and allows you to preview, browse or print them. Vista kicks it up a notch by integrating basic photo editing and organizational tools right into the operating system. Helpful. DVD burning features are available in the more expensive Vista editions.
4. Integrated Search - Relying on folder organization to search out documents is so 1990. Experienced Windows XP users have long kicked that painfully slow search dog to the curb in favor of add-on desktop search tools. Vista adds Instant Search to the Start menu. And instant it is, start typing and results pop up quickly.
5. Improved Wireless Networking – Along with the new Windows Mobility Center, they might as well call these the “Web Worker Features.” I’ve lost count how many different windows you have to pull up to troubleshoot a flaky wifi connection in Windows XP. Vista puts everything you need to know about your network connections, including wireless, in one place. Network Diagnostic tools too. Use the mobility center to balance performance and battery drain.
6. Neat Sync Center – This was probably an easy place to make improvements. If you own a Windows Mobile device, it’s difficult to say the word “ActiveSync” without some sort of expletive in the same breath. Vista throws the buggy mess out the window in favor of a sleek, new interface that manages your sync relationships to offline folders, other computers, and devices. Sync Center connects with the new Windows Mobile Device Center to manage your PDA sync settings.
7. Performance Improvements - As long as you have the hardware, you should see improvement in how Windows responds. There’s also the new ReadyBoost which lets you draw RAM power from a USB flash drive.
8. Integrated Calendar – It was ridiculous that Windows didn’t have an integrated calendar before now. If you’re not already running Outlook or managing your calendar through a website, the new Vista Calendar isn’t half bad. Sleek and easy-to-use, and it publishes to the web in iCalendar format.
9. Windows Meeting Space - Convince everyone you work with to upgrade, too, and then you can have a visual collaborative space available to you at any time to share desktops or presentations and files. If they’re not on the same network as you are, you can set up an ad hoc (PC-to-PC) connection.
10. Do the Upgrade on Your Own Time - Think about it. It’s a year from now and your trusty laptop finally gasps its last. It’s time for an upgrade. Your chances of finding a brand new computer running the familiar XP will not be good. Do you really want to be learning your way around Vista on a deadline crunch? For better or worse, Vista is where it’s at if you are resigned to Windows, so it’s not a matter of if you’ll jump in, it’s when. It may be a good idea to start on the ground floor. This is especially true if you support others, as they will be running Vista eventually and will be turning to you for answers.
Upgrade? Not so fast…
1. Steep Hardware Requirements - If you’re barely limping along in XP, then you’re going to have to put visions of Aero and Windows Meeting Spaces out of your head. It’s more than having a fast enough CPU and enough RAM. There are implications in the drivers, peripherals and video cards that you use that you have to consider. Microsoft has a page with tools that offer some guidance.
2. It’s Expensive – The Web Worker is going to want to skip the Home editions unless you can live without the Windows Mobility Center or advanced networking features. So expect to shell out around $200 for this ride, and that’s not even counting any hardware upgrades that may be necessary.
3. Be Prepared for Downtime - Completely upgrading an operating system takes time. You’ll want to perform a complete backup first and check it, then expect the upgrade itself to take a couple of hours. After you’re up and running in Vista, you’ll spend time configuring everything and making sure your applications are working as they should. If you don’t have at least two full days to devote considerable time to the upgrade, you should take a pass and wait until you purchase new hardware with the operating system preinstalled.
4. You Can’t Upgrade to a Fresh Drive - There’s something nice about a fresh slate. A Vista upgrade must be installed over an existing Windows install. So an attempt to upgrade Vista on an unstable XP system may make a bad situation worse. Either spring for a full version of Vista so you can wipe your drive clean and start fresh, or perform the clean install of XP first and upgrade Vista from there. Either way, add many hours to disadvantage #3 above.
5. Vista as a Virtual Machine is Allowed…But… If you want to run Vista in Parallels or Boot Camp under Mac OS X, you can’t even consider the cheaper Home versions. You must use the more expensive Business or Premium editions. More here.
6. Let Others Work Out the Bugs, You Have Real Work to Do. Despite years and years of development and testing, there will be bugs and there will be things that need fixing. There will inevitably be a Service Pack 1 that squashes those issues that are most annoying. Why not wait until other people have spent time banging their heads against their desks while on deadline? Besides, the chances are better that you’re collaborating with folks running XP anyway.
7. You Have Better Things to Spend Your Money on than Laptop Batteries - All that performance and interface demands a heavy price from our portable computers. By default, Vista puts the emphasis on performance over battery life. These settings can be tweaked, but odds are you’ll see less battery life from Vista than you’re comfortable with. You may want to stick with the operating system that you know makes it through the whole flight.
8. Get Close Enough to Vista Without Actually Touching It - Chances are you’re already running Internet Explorer 7 in Windows XP. You can also purchase Microsoft Office 2007 and run it in XP. There are any number of 3rd party tools that can duplicate a lot of the functionality of Vista, including advanced searching and network monitoring. Maybe just pick the “Vista” features you really want and use an acceptable substitute rather than go for the full upgrade.
9. All Promise, No Proven Results - The only way to know whether Vista is really more secure than previous Windows operating systems is to give the world some time to try and beat on it.
10. If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It – Yes, Vista is shiny and it’s new. It’s in the news and we’re the curious type when it comes to technology. But you’re used to your trusty Windows XP, warts and all, why rock the boat?
So what’s your reason for deciding for or against the upgrade? Do you care about media features or parental controls? Remember, “my operating system can beat up your operating system” comments aren’t going to be helpful to the Web Worker with $8,000 of hardware and software already invested in Windows.