Is Vista Microsoft's PS3?

by Todd Ogasawara

I originally posted this on a personal blog. But, I really wanted to see some discussion, so I'm re-purposing it here to see if the larger O'Reilly audience might have some thoughts on this question.

The PC World article...

Businesses Rethink Vista

...reports on surveys conducted by Patchlink that indicates that the number of businesses who said they were staying with Windows XP instead of upgrading to Vista went up from 53% in December 2006 (before Vista was released) 87% in July.

One of my blog items over on the O'Reilly Media WindowsDevCenter site...

Windows Vista Doesn't Run Any of My Software! Oh, Really?

...posted on May 1 continues to draw venomous comments about Windows Vista because of its software compatibility and lack of hardware driver support. Now, many of these comments are made without actually naming a single specific application. So, there may be a bit of anti-Microsoft trolling at work there. I've used Windows Vista for over two years now (Beta, Release Candidate, and production versions) and have run into only a handful of applications that didn't work. But, I've definitely run into a bunch of hardware driver issues. That said, I actually like Windows Vista and use it for a good chunk of the day on my notebook PC at work.

Given the general anti-Vista sentiment appears to be rising, I wonder if Windows Vista may be Microsoft's PlayStation 3. Sony's PS2 was the dominant game console for many years. Even the Xbox really didn't do much more than dent its dominance. But, the PS3 doesn't seem very popular except with hard core gamers. The Nintendo Wii and the Xbox 360 seems to have over-taken the PS3.

I think Vista's problem is that it didn't go far enough. Its incompatibility and user experience issues (I hate those UAC pop-ups) stem from trying to bandaid over years of Windows code. Microsoft should have bitten the bullet the way Apple did when they moved from OS 9 to OS X. Microsoft could have dealt with compatibility issues by providing a big upgrade to their Virtual PC product (instead of the incremental one they produced). A Microsoft Virtual PC that had the features of VMware Workstation and bundled with a Windows XP SP2 license would have allowed Vista users to simply move their current environment to a virtual machine and then migrate to the real Vista Windows as applications and drivers arrived. Instead, Virtual PC is too weak in the USB support area to really do much good as a complete virtualized environment.

With good virtual machine support available for the Mac (Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMWare Fusion), I wonder if we might see the migration there instead of Vista. The big problem, of course, is that most people will have to buy an XP license which is hard to find these days and somewhat expensive to do if one is found (since their old PCs probably came with a non-transferable OEM Windows XP). But, still if one is going to have application and hardware compatibility issues, why not move to a modern Linux or Mac OS X operating system instead of sticking with the nearly six year old Windows XP?
So, does Windows XP == Sony PS2? And, does Windows Vista == Sony PS3? We'll should know within the next 12 months or so. I'm going to keep using Vista on my PCs (and just bought VMware Fusion to try to virtualize it on a Mac). But, I may be in the minority if the various published reports are true.


2007-08-06 04:55:23
Certainly MS is not seeing the adoption of Vista like they wanted. Whether it is their PS3 is something I cannot guess at. You still have Vista pre-loaded on just about every PC out there so it will be adopted one way or another. I think it will probably have to be some huge mis-step that tumbles them down a bit.
Simon Hibbs
2007-08-06 10:32:00
Consumers who buy a Windows PC often don't have a choice, they get Vista with a new PC, like it or not. For businesses it's very different. I recently worked for Ericsson and their standard corporate desktop worldwide is still Windows 2000, and they're not unusual. Vista just doesn't offer corporate customers anything that they need.

This may change over time. Just as Windows Server 2003 and the later versions of Active Directory added great new management features, perhaps Longhorn will do the same but I don't see it happening for a long time yet, if ever. Many organizations are still only just getting to grips with Active Directory.

Meanwhile running an XP VM as you suggest is only even legal on the most expensive versions of Vista, while it's no problem at all on Linux or the Mac and the corporates already have as many XP licenses as they're ever going to need. I'm sure they can get some deep discounts on the VM software too, in bulk.

So yes, this is the biggest opportunity for Linux and the Mac to get a share of the corporate desktop that they've had in a decade. we're certainly in for some interesting times.

Chris Buechler
2007-08-11 20:46:59
Actually it's not hard at all for business customers to buy licenses for XP. In volume licensing contracts, Vista licenses with software assurance allow previous version use rights. i.e. buy Vista Business, you can legally use XP Pro. It's about the same price as XP was before Vista came out, though software assurance adds a bit.

I don't think we'll see the majority of business customers migrating any time soon, and working around the licensing issues isn't a problem.

2007-08-12 14:02:34
I don't think a complete alteration of code like Mac OS X is really ever going to be viable for Windows. It's very, very costly, since you'd lose or have to provide emulation for all previous code, and it wouldn't solve much. Mac OS 9 had some pretty significant issues, despite its benefits, and those were enough to cause stability issues that couldn't have been fixed without the entire thing being toyed with.

Windows hasn't had that problem in a while. While it's a modern cliche to say that Windows is unstable, it isn't that bad on its own (other than the bad habits of leaving older driver files and temp.ie5 files around). The problems have been a matter of security and of driver instability for the last couple releases, things that we don't have any particular reason to believe would disappear for long even if Microsoft pulled onto entirely new code.

People won't move to Mac OS X on any large scale. Apple is about selling hardware, and they won't allow anyone outside their company to sell their real defining point -- the software. People aren't going to start paying a hundred or two hundred bucks extra to get a comparably powered Mac that won't support their software anyway.

Linux is more of a danger to Microsoft for the non-gaming user because previous Linux users are usually experts in a field and tend to share that, leading to lots of specialized and available uses, but as the Dell Ubuntu forums show even the best options can be problematic for users when they find one business or school or personal use that just doesn't work with Linux yet.