In early January, we posted a review of Vista, Microsoft’s new operating system. Written by senior editor Erika Jonietz, the piece first appeared in the January/February 2007 issue of our magazine. In the piece, Jonietz described her disappointment with the company’s new software–and confessed to having crossed that clearest of lines in the cultural sand: she went from being a Windows user to being a Mac user.
The piece is the most widely read story we have ever posted on our site; it continues to be viewed by thousands of people every day. Clearly, it struck a chord with a lot of our readers. In response to that reception, we’re encouraging readers to share their thoughts with one another about the look and feel of Vista and Mac’s OS X.
To help get a discussion started, we’ve asked our former Web editor Brad King to write a pro-Microsoft response to Erika’s review (see below). We encourage you to read both pieces, then post your thoughts in this comment section!
Microsoft’s Imperfect Perfection
Reviewers have been unexcited by Microsoft’s new Vista operating system. But despite its flaws, the O/S makes for good computing.
By Brad King
After five years and $1 billion, Microsoft’s Vista operating system is here. Gates and his lieutenants hailed the release of the O/S as a world-changing event, hoping that everyone from the hardened reviewer to members of the general public would fall all over themselves with praise for the feature-rich, aesthetically pleasing, and user-friendly package.
That hasn’t exactly been the case.
Most reviewers have treated Vista with, at best, a shrug; at worst, Microsoft and Gates have been skewered for creating a bulky, resource-hogging Apple knockoff. Even Technology Review’s senior editor, Erika Jonietz, a Microsoft user, described Vista as “terribly familiar” to any Mac OS X user and “a prime example of software bloat.”
Jonietz and the countless reviewers who warned users not to purchase any of the early versions of Vista are absolutely correct. Microsoft’s early software iterations are always glitchy. For the general user, upgrading to Vista (sifting through each option, optimizing the computer for one’s existing hardware) can be quite maddening.
But Gates understands this. We know this because he estimated that only 5 percent of the PC market would upgrade to Vista before those people purchased a new computer.
However, the fact that most people won’t upgrade to Vista until they buy a new PC isn’t an indictment of the company’s operating system–or even the company’s development process. It’s a testament to the Redmond giant’s ability to change and turn with an ever-evolving PC market that requires its developers to create tools that can be used by many highly various people.
The company’s software–and Microsoft is a software company that exists in a hardware-agnostic world–must be developed in such a way that it can conform to the needs of all of its hardware partners. It must power hundreds of millions of computers around the world, some for personal use, some for networking and data security, some for servers, some for gaming, and some for digital entertainment.
The only way to create a product that can serve so many purposes is to build it “broken.” In that imperfection–or, rather, incompleteness–there is room for customizing, tweaking, cajoling, and hacking, all of which ultimately make for a more personalized computing experience.
When designing an embedded system choosing which tools to use often comes down to building a custom solution or buying off-the-shelf tools.