It’s no secret that Windows Vista has had a poor public reception: not so much in sales, but in public image. With countless stories of compatibility problems and sluggish performance, many people appear to be putting off buying Vista and waiting for the release of Windows 7 in a couple of years.
There are some good reasons to consider this. The most obvious is that Windows 7 could be as little as 18 months away, so if you haven’t got Vista yet, it might not be good value with a replacement operating system on the way.
Another reason is that Windows XP doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, despite Microsoft’s best efforts. They had planned that it would be withdrawn from sale completely by the end of June 2008, but that’s proven not to be the case.
Dell and HP have both found a loophole by which they can sell machines with Vista installed as standard but offer an option for customers to ‘downgrade’ to XP. Lenovo have decided to give computer buyers a ‘back-up’ disk which allows them to install Vista. Indeed Microsoft themselves have allowed manufacturers of low-powered machines to carry on selling them with XP because they may struggle to run with Vista.
All this means that while Microsoft still plans to phase out its customer support, there will likely be software and advice available for XP for the foreseeable future.
Owners of older computers may also decide its not worth getting Vista. That’s because, far more so than with previous operating systems, Vista is designed largely for newer, high-spec machines. This can make it slow to run on older machines, particularly if the Aero graphics system is switched on.
But some of the arguments against skipping Vista are starting to weaken. Most importantly, it seems Window 7 may not be all that different to Vista; Microsoft themselves are giving the impression it will be more of a revamp than a new start. Most significantly it will use the same kernel which debuted in Vista. The kernel is effectively the brain of an operating system and controls which function a computer carries out at any one instant.
While Microsoft may still have some impressive new features planned for Windows 7 that they are keeping quiet now (for fear of putting off potential Vista buyers), anyone who is giving Vista a miss because they don’t like the way it works is unlikely to find it worth waiting for Windows 7. It’s probably going to be around 2013 before Microsoft launches a version of Windows as different to Vista as Vista was to XP.
Microsoft have also said that Windows 7 will run on any computer that can run Vista, and will be compatible with all the same hardware such as printers. That may win over some buyers who weren’t willing to buy a new machine to get the best out of Vista because they were worried about it becoming obsolete once Windows 7 came out.
Whether it’s worth upgrading from XP to Vista really depends on your personal circumstances:
If you’re buying a new machine now, you won’t get a great deal of choice and it’s certainly worth giving Vista a fair shake before reverting to XP.
If you’ve got a machine that’s a few years old running XP, you probably won’t get the best out of Vista and it may not be worth upgrading, particularly if you are expecting to buy a new machine in a couple of years.
If you’ve got a relatively new XP machine, you may find that Vista gives you improved performance. However, it’s probably worth talking to friends or colleagues who use their computers in a similar way to you, but have Vista, to see if it’s worth the upgrade cost (around $100-$130) in your situation.
For an overview of Windows Vista functionality click Neil Henry’s article - the pros and cons of Vista.
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