R. Fink | Vista's rollout invites a skeptical view

The Packet Rat

The Packet Rat

There's a saying familiar to almost anyone who has dealt with political expediency: 'If at first you don't succeed, blame someone else.' The Rat has even seen that truism framed above certain superiors' desks at various points in his career. But it seems to be the mantra of many these days.

Take, for example, Microsoft. While Bill Gates was recovering from his all-out charm offensive to make the world care about the Windows Vista launch, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was already hard at work finding a scapegoat for Vista's failure to meet the insane sales projections made by analysts Microsoft paid to make those projections.

And Ballmer pulled them out of his back pocket in mid-February. In order, Vista fell short of sales expectations because of 1) the analysts, and 2) piracy. Oh, and 3) those no-good intellectual-property thieves who contribute to the Linux operating system.

'Blaming analysts for overhyping something is like blaming the sun for rising,' the Rat cackled as he read of Ballmer's effort to de-emphasize the importance of Vista's less-than-stellar charge out of the gates, so to speak.

As for pirates, Vista certainly has found its way into Bitstream 'torrents' on the Internet, but it's doubtful that piracy has had that much of an impact on Vista's distribution yet. Given that there were so many public (and free) betas of Vista floating around prior to the official launch of the OS, even the alleged 'cracked' versions wouldn't be responsible for that much slack in sales, the cyberrodent surmised.

Microsoft hasn't helped its own case on the piracy front. It's become widely known that you can install Vista on a 'clean' machine from an 'upgrade only' version just by rebooting at the right time (see item, at right).

But the honest truth is that the big thing holding up Vista sales isn't piracy, or analysts, or even desktop Linux. The three elephants in the room that Steve Ballmer should be throwing chairs at are named Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. 'Talk about instant karma,' the Rat remarked.

There's widespread fear that the upgrade will require outright replacement of many systems within organizations'a hardware refresh that isn't in the budget for everyone. Even the Rat's relatively new notebook PC isn't Vista-ready, according to Microsoft's own assessment tool. Even if you assume that you'll only need to spend $500 per desktop or notebook PC that needs to be upgraded or replaced to run Vista, that starts adding up pretty quickly.

Then there's uncertainty over whether drivers will be available for many peripherals. There are some older PCs out there that ran fine with XP, but their lack of digitally signed drivers for Vista renders them into high-tech paperweights. While Microsoft has shouted about how many applications run on Vista, it doesn't matter much if you can't print, view, scan or otherwise perform input and output with them.

And then there's the doubt about Vista's security and stability. While Vista has been pretty solid so far for everyone the Rat has talked to, many of the touted security improvements won't work until Microsoft gets around to shipping Longhorn (the code name for the next version of Microsoft's server operating system). And given Microsoft's history with new OS releases, many organizations have already institutionalized a policy of waiting for the first major Service Pack to be shipped for a Windows platform before widely adopting it.

So, as much as Ballmer rants, the Rat suspects that Microsoft is going to have a long wait before Vista really starts to roll.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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