Jumbo pack of Vista

It’s been a busy month – not only has Windows Server 2008 appeared in another beta release, but Vista’s long-awaited SP1 has gone into beta, too. The two events are, of course, related; much code is shared between the two platforms, so lock-stepping them together may be wise. It could also be a bad idea, though, if a major problem on one slows down the other. Nevertheless, Server 2008 looks to be on target for its release date of…late 2007. Sorry, I just can’t get out the habit: so many senior Microsoft executives repeating it ad nauseam seems to have prevented the new date fixing itself in my brain.

Jumbo pack of Vista

I saw some figures this week that suggest Vista has managed to achieve just 7% market share, which is somewhat shocking. I’ve heard of “slow initial ramp”, but this takes the biscuit. No doubt, many folk are waiting for SP1 to iron out the nastier driver and core bugs, but there’s also a perception that Vista is just too resource-hungry at the moment – next year’s hardware may help on that score.

Now for a real shocker. Let’s play “guess the size of the Vista Service Pack”. Any bidders for 100MB? How about 200MB? Nope, you all lose; it comes in at a whopping 687MB. Doubtless there’s lots of tweaking to come, and it may yet be split into a bunch of “SP1-ettes”, but Microsoft has still gone for The Big One with this release. It’s called release 0.275 and, to be honest, I can’t tell any difference between the pre-SP1 and post-SP1 Vista yet, although I might once I move my testing from VMware-hosted onto real hardware. I’m glad it’s here, though, as Vista needs all the confidence boosting it can get.

It doesn’t help that Microsoft has extended the timeframe during which hardware vendors can keep pre-installing XP by five months through to next summer. Making such an announcement not many weeks after the previously announced date came into force will make people think it’s a panic decision. And what happens next spring when Vista SP1 is out and sales still haven’t picked up? Will Microsoft move the deadline again to the end of the year? And then what happens? Only time will tell, but there’s now no question that Microsoft is experiencing more consumer resistance than ever before to its attempted migration from XP to Vista.

I can understand why: I recently bought two cheap-as-chips HP laptops, both of which came with XP Professional installed. It’s ugly, it’s clunky, but it works and chats away happily to my domain controller. An alternative choice might have been Vista Home Premium – complete with a great wodge of Media Center guff that only works on hardware I don’t have, and which won’t communicate with my domain. Worse still, while you can force an XP Home box to talk to a network by setting the Workgroup name appropriately, making a Vista Home Premium box talk to anything else seems to be an exercise in extreme frustration.

As an aside, my nice HP multimedia “just like an iMac without the style” SmartCenter box running Vista Home Premium is stuck in an endless loop of “Please do not power off or unplug your machine. Installing update 1 of 1…”. It’s been telling me that for over an hour now. Should I kill it? Will it ever come back to life when I power it up again? The suspense is killing me.

Be nice now

In answer to the reader who emailed me asking “Are you always so rude about Microsoft?”, I’ve decided it’s time to praise something good in Vista. In fact, if you’re an XP user, you might even make the changeover to get this feature. Well, if you have children at least, because the feature in question is Parental Controls. Let’s be honest and admit that XP is a disaster area if you want to lock down a machine for a child to use. Most XP machines, especially in the home, use one account to auto-login and then anything can happen, everyone has access to the entire hard disk – and don’t forget that many XP machines are still running with FAT32 file format, so there’s no point trying to impose file-level security because there’s no security engine.

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