You don’t have to search too hard to find an article that claims Microsoft is the new underdog of the technology world. Head-to-head comparisons between Windows Vista and MacOS X frequently point in favor toward Apple’s operating system. Countless writers have commented on the stagnant state of Microsoft Office and the promise of OpenOffice. Even non-technical users have heard of the Firefox versus Internet Explorer debate. Let’s not forget Windows Live vs. Google either…
There are an equally prolific group of writers who write about Microsoft’s unyielding dominance in every market that they enter. These writers can point to the battle between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, or the rising threat of the Zune against the iPod – or at least when version 3.0 of the Zune comes out. These same writers point to Microsoft’s ability to destroy Netscape, PalmOS, OS/2 and even Microsoft’s ability to drive smaller third-party companies out of business (anyone remember Trumpet WinSock?). Indeed, with Windows Vista, companies with commercial software like BeyondTV or SageTV will face even greater pressure than they ever had before.
Is Microsoft the underdog who must struggle to win back the minds of the trendsetters and technology elite, the Herculean juggernaut whose unlimited resources will inevitably destroy the competition over the next 50 years as was seen with AT&T and the “new AT&T”, or the lumbering dinosaur blissfully unaware of its impending extinction?
None of the above. The complete answer takes this entire article series to explain.
The Flagship: Windows Vista
“If you're a gamer… don't upgrade and risk losing the ability to play some of your favorite games.”
“If you're at the office, you might want to steer clear for a while to let many of the bugs get addressed before making the plunge.”
“IT folks have a saying that goes along these lines - if it doesn't have a service pack, we aren't using it. In our book, that is a mighty fine slogan to adhere to.”
Those quotes aren’t referring to Windows Vista. Those are from FiringSquad’s Windows XP Review from 2001.
Every time Microsoft releases a new operating system, the review boils down to a couple of simple conclusions. The new operating system will be:
- Flashier and Easier to use (but with a few idiosyncrasies introduced by the new interface).
- Engineered to be efficient, but slower for most real-world apps due to immature driver support
- Buggy, requiring compatibility or security patches
- Something that most people should wait before jumping into
Although a review is helpful for enthusiasts, Microsoft isn’t looking for a reviewer’s approval. Consider the fact that Windows Vista has sold over 20 million copies within the first month of its release whereas the entire MacOS X user base just passed 20 million this year. Simply put, Windows Vista has already won.
Mac fans will be quick to point out that Microsoft’s figures includes “system upgrade coupons” bundled with OEM PCs over the last three months and that actual installed base is much smaller, but at the end of the day, Microsoft is still profiting from all of those sales, regardless. As long as you’re staying with Windows, it’s not a question of whether or not you’re going to move to Windows Vista – it’s only a question of when. Even if you’re happy with your Windows XP system (or even your Windows 2000 system), if you’re going to run Windows, you’ll eventually be running Windows Vista. At some point, you’ll eventually run into something that’ll require Vista (DirectX 10? X64?) and whether you pay for Windows Vista now, or you pay for it 4 years from now, it’s all the same to Microsoft.
But what about transitioning to something like Linux or Mac? It’s not a question of stability anymore. The fact that many people are planning to stick with Windows XP SP2 for a while tells you about Windows stability on well-designed PCs. A well-designed PC with quality components (i.e. RAM/PSU) and appropriate cooling can easily have uptimes of a month (i.e. when the next security patch comes out requiring you to reboot). Although some reviewers at other websites have complained about system crashes with their Vista build, I’ve been running Vista on my production system for months without any complaints about stability.
It’s not a question of application support either. Sure, there are amazing platform-specific applications for the Mac (e.g., iLife, iWork, Final Cut Pro, Shake) and Linux (e.g. just about any serious networking stuff), but Windows has its own share of exclusive software titles too… games being a major group.
The move away from Windows has largely been driven by security.