I am not a Microsoft rep. I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. This does not preclude me from cynicism about Microsoft products. There is your upfront disclaimer. I know enough to be dangerous, but I don't have to like it.
This coming November, so they have announced, Microsoft will regale us with a new version of their Windows operating system named Windows Vista and a new version of Office (2007). You can get the "official" tour over at the Windows Vista homepage, but don't bother unless you have a good appreciation for marketing. It doesn't have any real content or bearing on reality. This past week, however, I was lucky enough to attend a presentation of all, most, or some (they didn't say which) the new features we should expect in the next generation of products. So, here I am to translate what I heard into real English for you.
Aren't you lucky?
If I had to sum it up in one word, I'd say this: Bloated.
If I had to sum it up in a phrase, I'd say this: Learn how to use Linux.
Taking a broad look at the operating system, the main difference is that it's prettier. There are glassy textures, semi-transparent window borders, and buttons that light up when you mouse over them everywhere. It's everything that you ever wanted from your Mac, including the dumbing down of the User Interface.
Yes! It's changed! No longer do you have to deal with straight-forward drill-down menus. Now you too, can hunt and peck with minimal accuracy until you finally just do a search for the goddamn-thing-what-was-it-called, anyway? In fact, searching is a large part of the new Windows interface. They've integrated a tool into the interface that's almost identical to Google Desktop, with the added bonus of not having a pesky OpenSource community constantly developing nifty new gadgets for it. Wait.. did I say bonus? I meant "feature." In fact, the UI is so good, now, that the guy who gave the presentation I saw had to search for every single program he opened, because he couldn't find it quickly through the revamped Start Menu.
Windows users, rejoice! Efficiency is a thing of the past!
Similarly, the new Office has a whole new User Interface, as well. They've done away with the toolbars and drop-down menus that Office users everywhere have finally mastered in favor of a "context-based" user interface that will automatically show you toolbars at the top of the screen based on what you're doing at that moment. Anybody who has ever used Microsoft Word to, oh, format a list, knows just how well those zany guys at Microsoft anticipate your needs. What do you mean you don't want that indented? No. It will be indented. LISTEN: You want that indented, and you're going to LIKE it.
That's the biggest
problem feature. Microsoft knows what you want better than you do. No! There's no use denying it, it's true. And even if it weren't true, you'd just have to get used to it, anyway. They're right. You're wrong. The customer has no choice for this is a Computer, and the Computer is always right. Clippy is GOD.
Let me share an anecdote from the presentation: The audience was 75% Hardcore IT People. You know the types. They wear their pants really high, they actually use pocket protectors, they talk entirely in acronyms. Those people. The Microsoft rep was showing off the New Control Panel. "Of course," he said, "If you don't like this view, you can always switch back to the Classic View." and he clicked the button. There was quiet in the room. The rep said, "Oh! Of course, the Classic View is no longer the Classic View of old. The Classic View refers to the Windows XP view." The entire room groaned. The rep laughed, and moved on.
"You don't understand," that laugh said, "If you don't do what we want you to do, we'll simply take away all the other available options, one by one."
And now more options are gone. No longer will you control your experience within your computer. The experience will control you.
This is to say nothing of the fact that we know nothing of the security holes that a new OS will introduce, or the fact that the minimum requirements are SO big (roughly 5 times that of Windows XP) that most users will have to buy a new computer to run the new OS.
I never thought I would say this, but I think the options are clear. According to Microsoft, Vista will be available in November, but they'll support Windows XP through 2012. If you're currently a Windows user, for the love of god: run your Windows XP box into the ground. Upgrade only if you're being held at gunpoint. And after that? If you haven't taught yourself Linux in self-defense?
Buy a Mac.
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
6.19.06 @ 8:38a
Oh, thanks! Now you've given my daughter and grandgeek, the Mac users, another argument in their litany of naqgging. They both have Apple laptops of some kind or other which they carry around in their little backpacks and use everywhere there's some kind of online network into which they can muscle their way. My other grandgeek who has a big, high-powered IT job and his fiance who are PC users, are my only sources of support in retaining my Dell PC with it's Windows XP OS. I've been a PC user for 22 years and I'm OLD and set in my ways. I don't want to learn some other new-fangled OS and yet you seem to be saying I have no choice. If I stick with a PC the new OS is so horriable (sic) it'll be like learning a new OS, and if I go with a Mac or Linux I'll for sure have to hearn a new OS. Oh, woe is me! Sigh. (Sounds of gnashing of teeth along with the weeping and wailing.)
6.19.06 @ 9:25a
No, no. It's easy.
Just don't upgrade.
That said, yes. Micro$oft isn't doing the PC market any favors with this release.
6.19.06 @ 10:32a
Vista is gearing it's initial audience to gamers, not the business user. Gamers are the ones who upgrade everything in a predictable cycle, including an OS that can enable even more bells and whistles. Hence the initial release of DirectX10 on Vista only. Being an MCSE myself, and supporting a windows/mac/linux environment, I think Erik is right on with is assessment. Not only does Microsoft step backwards in the name of "efficency", they limit the functionality of the operating system.
In the next year or two linux will have a very verbose and user friendly desktop environment, something with the functionality and ease of use that Windows and Apple have. If you do find linux too daunting, most regular users do and rightfully so since it really isn't ready as a desktop OS, Apple will do you just nicely.
6.19.06 @ 10:54a
Linux's main problem, as I see it, is that it is a bitch to install. Once it's on, I could probably use it, but I'd have to get help to put it on the computer.
6.19.06 @ 11:02a
Well, it really depends on your flavor and what you're trying to do with it.
There are some really windows-esque installers/installations - like Ubuntu or SUSE (supposedly the easiest/most used Linux in the world).
Your perception is probably a little colored by me trying to do things above and beyond a normal Linux installation. :D
6.19.06 @ 11:03a
Ah, that explains it.
6.19.06 @ 11:10a
Anaconda installer with Fedora Core/Redhat is pretty easy to use too. Well as easy as installing Windows.
6.20.06 @ 11:13a
Geek speak is so sexy!
I'm afraid that I will have to buy Macs on the next Kelley Household Computer Upgrade. After the total hell I went through with ME, I'm leery of many "upgrades" to Microsoft products.
6.20.06 @ 1:22p
ME is the Microsoft equivalent of Neanderthals: a dead-end offshoot that forgot to die off in time.
6.20.06 @ 1:27p
That's an incredibly apt metaphor.
6.20.06 @ 4:59p
Classic View cannot go away...we must stop it!
6.20.06 @ 5:18p
6.20.06 @ 5:18p
Regardless of this new OS, is it worth it for a lifelong PC user to switch to a Mac? Even if I don't use graphics programs or crap like that?
6.21.06 @ 12:39a
Frankly, unless you're a hardcore gamer or an engineer who needs to do CAD work, you're probably just fine switching to a Mac. In a corporate environment, the image has always been Wintel = business productivity software, Mac = creative/media software. But the lines these days are just far too blurred. Most of the major packages for one are available for the others. And the newer Macs will let you install Windows on 'em anyway, so you can have either system with the push of a button. So drop your preconceived notions of one OS being more one thing than another. The OS just runs whatever software YOU choose to put on your drive.
If you're shopping for a computer, you should have a clear idea what you're intending to use that computer for. Don't under-buy, but don't get a system with crap that you'll never need, either.
6.21.06 @ 9:35a
So drop your preconceived notions of one OS being more one thing than another. The OS just runs whatever software YOU choose to put on your drive.
I wish Microsoft would learn that.
6.21.06 @ 10:03a
I tend to be the type of person who messes around with my PC just enough that once every few years I totally screw it up. Will a Mac help me avoid that?
6.21.06 @ 10:14a
Depends on how you're messing with it. If you're careful, you can break anything.
On the other hand, the best way to figure out how to use something is to play with it until you break it - and then fix it again.
6.21.06 @ 10:20a
I usually get frustrated with all the useless crap that's bogging my PC down (useless crap that I added for whatever reason), and then I delete something crucial and suddenly my disc drives stop working.
6.21.06 @ 10:25a
No, you can really do that with any OS.
On the other hand, almost any OS can be *fixed* when you do that by just reinstalling it.
6.21.06 @ 10:28a
But to reinstall you have to reformat and if you can't burn your hard drive onto discs because you're drives don't work...and if you can't reinstall because the disc can't be read by said faulty drives, what do you do?
6.21.06 @ 10:41a
No you don't. You just reinstall on top of the non-working copy without formatting.
And, really, deleting wrong files shouldn't actually screw up the physical integrity your hard drives.
Sounds to me like you just have a crappy/old machine. :D
6.21.06 @ 10:56a
How can I reinstall if I can't use discs?
6.21.06 @ 11:03a
Buy a drive that works?
You can buy a CD-Rom for like $20.
6.21.06 @ 11:11a
If I were to buy a new computer, say a laptop, could I network them and then get the stuff of the hard drive that way? Of course, if I got a Mac Laptop, that's a no.
6.21.06 @ 11:20a
You know, even if you got a Mac Laptop, that's a yes - but you *do* have to be able to turn both computers off to be able to network them.
An interesting work around (assuming you have a working CD-Rom) is this nifty Linux OS called Knoppix that runs entirely off of a CD-Rom - so even if your computer is COMPLETELY fubar you can still boot it up with this CD and get onto the hard drive (assuming it's not physically damaged).
Also, with Knoppix, you can get on the internet/network and move files around with ease - it's a great way to get into a computer that's crashed and retreive information.
6.21.06 @ 12:40p
Yep, Macs are nice because (particularly laptops) they can be booted in "FireWire mode," and serve strictly as a hard drive if you need to connect it to another computer and can't whip up a basic network.
And yeah, Mike, Erik's right; you don't have to reformat your HD just to reinstall the system. That'd be like replacing your drywall just so you could repaint your walls.
6.21.06 @ 12:55p
Wow. That's a nice feature.