Vista Ain’t that Bad, In Fact It’s Good

by Hadley Stern Oct 04, 2006

I’ve used a few versions of Vista beta’s sporadically. Say what you want about Microsoft they give people a view into what they are working on, warts and all.

And there were a tremendous amount of warts in the early working versions of Vista. The OS literally sputtered at times, rendering the pointer invisible. Or, now and again the machine would just crash, emitting a monotonous tone before fading to black.

But RC1 is different. Very different. I used it for a full day. And use is the operative term here. It was fast, and the office beta was snappy to. IE 7 is very usable, stable, and reminded me of, surprise surprise, using firefox on OS X.

People have mocked (including me) Vista for ages. But RC1 is different. Sure it is still ugly as crap, marred by Microsofts apparent ineptitude with visual subteties and beauty that Apple excels at. But I suspect that most users won’t care.

Pre RC1 I always imagined that any user would be able to see so clearly the difference between Vista and OS X. I’m afraid those days are now gone. Just like most of the world couldn’t appreciate how the Mac operating system was better than Windows when it first came out most people are going to be oblivious to the differences between OS X and Windows.

I don’t pretend to understand the possible security issues with Vista and how it compares to OS X. I’m sure Apple comes out on top. But from a user experience standpoint, aesthetic differences notwithstanding, Vista and OS X look very similar. Of course Steve Jobs would say of course they do, that’s because they copied Apple. Well, after using RC1 I can say that they most certainly did. And they’ve done a pretty good job.

What this means for Apple is that the edge with OS X will disappear. And what is left? Better hardware? Perhaps. More software selection? Certainly not. The so-called advantages of a closed hardware/software platform? Most assuredly not as iTunes availability and success on the Windows platform shows.

All signs in the future point to the end of the importance of the operating system. Or, maybe it is time for Apple to start thinking about what needs to come next.


  • The biggest difference:

    Tiger (and probably Leopard) will be able to run fairly well even on older Macs.

    Vista will be a dog on older PCs.

    This will likely matter little to the new computer buyer, since they will have faster hardware.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 243
  • The fact is, it is still Windows and the warts are still there under the spackling compound. The Registry still rocks - oops - I mean to say the Registry is still a rock tied around the user’s neck. Microsoft still thinks everyone is an idiot so it is still difficult to get to the proper configuration dialog and just enter the values that need entering. The Explorer is still too busy visually. I could go on. Yes, Vista, like all the other iterations of Windows is ‘just good enough’ and there are plenty of people who find that suffices. Fine, let them use it.

    davidwb had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 32
  • I’m still waiting for a Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. That I can get one now from HP or Dell at a price that, in some cases, is less that Apple is selling their MacBooks for is embarassing. The switch to Intel chips were supposed to end the days where Apples were generally a generation behind in chip tech, but here we are, once again, notebooks which are more expensive, but behind. So frankly, I’m arguing the hardware is no longer better, just nicer looking. Three strikes for Apple… but luckily enough they’re not out. I’m not waiting for January to get a machine, so I’m not waiting for Vista. Looking at the latest anti-piracy tech from Microsoft, I don’t think I want to upgrade to Vista. I’d suggest no one upgrade at all—if you want to risk Vista, buy it preinstalled on a brand-name PC, just to minimize the risk of MS activating the kill-switch on you. But that kill-switch alone is enough for me to argue that Vista is a much bigger risk than an Apple. If Microsoft misidentifies your computer as pirated (which happens far more frequently than MS would like to admit), it will be far more painful to use than Linux, with far fewer apps that will work.

    Vista ain’t gonna be that good.

    SterlingNorth had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 121
  • I really think that Apple know this, though. I’m sure that, though this idea might defile the idea of a perfection at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino (purged of all imperfection), there is at least one computer there running a beta of Vista and at least a few running XP. I’m sure they see the differences. Luckily, Leopard is soon to emerge, and then the differences will likely return. Vista will give Apple considerable conpetition in OS design, and competition always brings out a better product (or forces a company out of the industry).

    Leapard is going to be sweet. And don’t forget how long it took from XP to Vista, and how many OSX 10.x’s came out in that time. We could possibly see OS XI emerge in the lifespan of Vista. I think we can count on the cutting edge ability of Apple to remain, though it is true that Vista and OSX are similar.

    swabblemeister had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 6
  • Sorry, I meant “I’m sure they see the similarities”

    swabblemeister had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 6
  • Looking at the latest anti-piracy tech from Microsoft… crap! i wont be able to install Vista then.

    nana had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 63
  • I have to say that Apple have squandered the advantage they had over Windows. Microsoft F’d up with Vista, but I remember seeing both Windows XP and OS X for the first time late in 2002… Fell in love with Macs on that day, and it forever tarnished my view of XP, which to me, was Windows 2000 with a Fisher Price interface.

    I accept it took till 10.3 to get X right. But since then, Apple seem to have been concentrating on bundling stuff with the OS. Spotlight was the only good idea in Tiger (I use Dashboard maybe once a week to check the weather), and I don’t see anything revolutionary in the Leopard previews.

    Fact is, we’re back to the position of the Mac 10 years ago… it’s more efficient, more reliable, but feature-wise, Windows Vista is probably its equal. I would never go back, but now the Windows users will have nothing to persuade them bar ‘It looks better’ and ‘It’s easier, honest, but you’ll need to forget everything you learned about computers through using Windows,’ which the the arguments last time too.

    I still love the OS, but Apple were a quantum leap ahead, and now they’re just a few yards.

    evilcat had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 66
  • Hadley, I thought we had recently debunked the myth that “the operating system is dead”.  At any rate, it is at best a “controversial” view.  Even the humble iPod sells because the software which comes loaded on it makes the user experience so much better.

    It is encouraging to see that the world’s largest software maker can produce software which doesnt fizz, burn and crash.  But it is indicative of the trouble MS are in when industry commentators express surprise and admiration when they can…  eventually…

    Vista is not yet shipping.  By the time MS work out the bugs and unleash Vista on the general public, Apple will be some way down the path to releasing the next-gen Mac OS.

    Really what you are saying is that Microsoft will, eventually, produce an OS which more or less matches the current, stable, offering from Apple.

    Lets face it, while MS have been busy building Vista over the last 5 years, Apple have kept OS/X at the forefront, forcing MS to play catchup…  But, at the same time, Apple have changed the face of the music industry…

    sydneystephen had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 124
  • I suppose if you ignore everything that’s been written about Vista, you could say that it’s going to be “good”.

    1) Microsoft security is swiss cheese, and I don’t see any improvement in Vista. Not unless you call Microsoft getting into the AV game and charging users for subscriptions an improvement.

    2) You have heard about all the anti-piracy measures in Vista, and how erm, they have malfunctioned? Would you like to lose your computer for a few days because Vista’s piracy prevention malfunctioned? Welcome to Windows.

    3) Usability and reliability are important, nay critical to computer users. Is Windows any more useable than XP? How about reliable? Don’t make me laugh. And compared to OS X? You haven’t done your homework and you want me to give a free pass on it? Usability is far more than appearance!

    4) As for what “most people think” or “what most people notice”, who really cares? Using a computer is not a game of “follow the leader”. Buried in those phrases are the supposition that “well if it’s good enough for Harry, then I guess it’s good enough for me.” Right. Like I’m going to give up my right to think to be part of a crowd. Stuff that.

    Apple Matters is ocassionally humorous, but I found this article to be humorous indeed. In fact, I think you could say I found it to be a joke.

    Aurora77 had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 35
  • If Vista has caught up to os x, it’s the version of os x that came out in April 2005. We’ll see in January whether how the os x that will actually be competing with Vista compares.


    Jim Stead had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 10
  • Sydneystephen,

    You got me with the OS is dead reference…or did you? If Vista is that similar to OS X it just proves, in yet another way that the OS doesn’t matter. The advantage for Apple or MSFT will come from how they integrate internet services into their apps and OS. Apple has .Mac integration (and more is probably to come in Leopard), Vista has a large Live strategy.


    This article isn’t a joke smile. It is serious, just like Vista. In my day’s work with Vista it seemed as usable as OS X. Granted I prefer OS X…but its not like we are talking about the difference between DOS and the original Mac OS here. They are different flavors of the same thing. Vista was very reliable the day I used it. Granted I wasn’t using a ton of Apps.

    Finally, Jim Stead,

    You are absolutely right, and I hope what you say is true. It was clear at the recent WWDC that Apple was hiding a tremendous amount, including a probably redesigning of the Finder. Let’s hope it trounces Vista when Leopard finally appears!

    Hadley Stern had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 114
  • Underneath all that candy-coating which I agree is a few steps closer to OSX in elegance, the infrastructure of Windows has not changed that much at all.

    Like post#2 said, the Registry is very much the same and what ills XP and 2000 (with this plumbing) will also infect Vista.

    The only way for MS to totally eradicate today’s Windows malware is to completely rid of the Registry in the next iteration and modularize the OS layers and the kernel.

    They can still support compatibility by implementing virtualization in that new architecture. Again, this will be made easier by the modularity of the OS.

    I think Vista is and will be the last Registry-based OS from the folks at Redmond. It is a dead-end. The thing is already so complex even for MS’s 10,000+ developers on hand to manage. MS needs to refocus and start anew.

    Robomac had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Aurora77 wrote:
    As for what “most people think” or “what most people notice”, who really cares?

    The problem with that logic is that if the average user sees less and less distinction between Windows and Mac OS, we’re back to the days of ever-declining market share and more developers leaving the platform.

    The Mac is arguably at its strongest point in many years in terms of software. More developers are working with OS X than ever in the OS 8/9 days and we’re definitely seeing an iPod halo effect bringing new users to the platform (and therefore keeping developers interested in the growing customer base).

    If Apple starts to lose those users again like in the bad old days of the 90’s, we Mac users will suffer in terms of software availability.

    When you think of it in terms of a “me too” thing, you’re right… Who cares if my buddies are using Macs or not? But that’s a very narrow vision. It makes a huge different to the software market and the more users that stay with Windows, the worse off we Mac users will be in terms of software selection.

    If we don’t have the software needed to do our work, it won’t matter if we think the Mac OS is better. We will have to choose the platform that suits our software needs to make a living.

    I, for one, wouldn’t want to go there.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 243
  • Well, we are comparing Vista with 10.4, right? We have know idea what the 10.5 interface will be (it may be no change, or it may be significant and we haven’t been shown).

    There are a couple of other possibilities hinted at at WWDC that could really change the way I use my computer… you’re right though that MS at least shows you what they’re doing smile

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Oct 04, 2006 Posts: 228
  • Meh, I didn’t play with earlier versions of Vista, but I did install RC1 and the 5728 release (I’m part of their beta testing program, not that I’ve done much beta testing) so when I used it, I wasn’t comparing it with the earlier crappier versions.

    I also use XP daily.

    Take away Gadgets (the Sidebar is so annoying, it’s the first thing I disabled) and Aero, and Vista looks just like a reskinned XP (and most of the Aero effects are available on XP with 3rd party freeware). All the control menus are the same, it still uses the retarded letter labels for disk drives and \ instead of / for directories.

    For 99% of users, if you put them down in front of a Vista PC and an XP PC with IE7 beta and one the many available Vista themes installed, they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, except that the UAC makes Vista harder (albeit more secure, if it wasn’t so easy to disable) to use.

    Yes, a lot more is new under the hood, but this just doesn’t feel like a new OS to me.

    About the only thing Vista has going for it is DirectX10 support, so any games that support it will run better on Vista.

    I’ll need Vista when it’s released, for testing my webapps, but my work’s IT department will provide me with it - most likely in a VMWare image. I’m hoping I’ll be able to pick up a copy of XP cheap when Vista is released, but I’m not really expecting XP’s price to drop much, if at all.

    Vista will, of course, sell well because most people don’t consider the alternative. But more than five years development, for this?

    nilp had this to say on Oct 05, 2006 Posts: 16
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