News Columns & Blogs

Truth: ‘Ask what you can buy for Vista’

Before 2006, many of us were well satisfied with Windows XP, having gone through the initial break-in period, installing Service Pack 1, then Service Pack 2, things seemed to be rolling along quite smoothly. Even Windows 2000 still had a golden reputation as being a clean-running, efficient operating system that could be run on basic PCs. Enter Windows Vista.

Microsoft set system requirements for Windows Vista Home Basic at a low level. It appeared that many XP machines would be able to handle Vista Home Basic without much trouble. In practice, this was not the case. An installation of Vista required 10 times the hard drive space required by XP. Microsoft’s recommendation of 512 MB of memory did not run Vista Home Basic very well. And users could no longer get away with a simple CD drive, Vista required a DVD.

Unavailable drivers for older printers and other peripherals presented a huge hurdle. Even after Vista’s Service Pack 1, consumers were unable to utilize the equipment they were used to using with XP. The catchy Mac-Guy ad campaign stated it bluntly: “Ask not what Vista can do for you, ask what you can buy for Vista.”

Many were attempting to install Windows Vista on computers with the minimum recommended specs. New Vista computers were sold with components at barely adequate levels making performance barely adequate. Frustration mounted and Apple Computers loved it. Microsoft worked to get updates out quickly, but it could not possibly accommodate the vast range of equipment its users owned.

As time went on and consumers obtained faster, more capable computers, Vista’s cool new features could be better appreciated. Eventually tech-savvy users began to appreciate Vista, but by now it was tough to get a positive word into the conversation. Vista offered better graphics and flashy new tools for organizing databases and workspaces. Those who beefed up their system and tried the higher tier versions such as Vista Ultimate were pleasantly surprised. Still, the current was flowing decidedly against Vista.

With the introduction of any new operating system, retailers see a decline in computers sold. Consumers wait out the “break-in” period before they make new purchases. Vista’s struggles were reflected in poor sales of new systems throughout its three-year reign. Consumers demanded that manufacturers provide new systems with Windows XP included, and Dell responded with their Vostro line. Many individuals and businesses postponed computer purchases, in anticipation of Windows 7.

Since October, Windows 7 has delivered pretty well. Microsoft’s ad campaign seems to want to share responsibility with PC users who say “Windows 7 was my idea.” Is that an attempt to toss ownership back to the public, before Microsoft can get into trouble again?

Windows 7 has several new functions that are easy to get hooked on. Task management is easy and fun, security is improved, linking with other local computers is streamlined. Windows 7 adds these features without requiring more computing power than Vista. As we are pulled along with the technology current, we will eventually adjust to the new level of speed and performance. We will become accustomed to the new advances, and then they will introduce a whole new level of technology. And whose idea will that be?

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at