Chris Pirillo leaned away from his webcam and pointed to his printer/scanner/fax machine, which stopped scanning and faxing after he installed Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows Vista operating system. “I can’t live in Vista if the software that I use in my life for productivity does not work,” said Pirillo, in the third minute of a 52-minute video he posted on YouTube.
Nearly six months after it launched, gripes over what does not work with Vista continue, eclipsing positive buzz over the program’s improved desktop search, graphics and security. With Vista now shipping on most new computers, it is all but guaranteed to become the world’s dominant PC operating system eventually. For now, some users are either learning to live with workarounds or sticking with Vista’s predecessor, Windows XP.
Pirillo is geekier than the average user. He runs a network of technology blogs called Lockergnome, and was one of several “Windows enthusiasts” Microsoft asked for Vista feedback early on. Still, Vista tested even Pirillo’s savvy. He fixed the hobbled printer and other problems by installing VMware, a program that lets him run XP within Vista. But when his trial copy expired, he decided the solution was too clunky—and too expensive. He “upgraded,” as he called it, back to XP.
Users’ early complaints are not a threat to Microsoft’s dominance in operating systems. The various flavours of Windows run 93% of PCs worldwide, according to the research group IDC. Last fiscal year, Windows accounted for about one-third of Microsoft’s total revenue of $44.3 billion (Rs1.79 trillion).
Industry analysts say Vista adoption is plodding along as expected, with most consumers and businesses switching over as they replace old hardware with new. IDC analyst Al Gillen said he expects Vista will be installed on the vast majority of computers in about five years, the time it took for XP to reach 84% of PCs.
It is too early for industry watchers to know exactly how many people are using Vista. At the same time, it is hard to gauge Vista’s success by comparing it to XP, because the PC market has grown tremendously in the last six years.
In early May, Microsoft said it had distributed 40 million copies of Vista, which costs $199-399, depending on the version. But it did not specify the number actually sold through to consumers, versus those shipped to computer makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc.
Analysts noted that as many as 15 million of those copies could represent upgrade coupons given to XP buyers during the holidays, before Vista went on sale. Microsoft would not say how many of those customers installed the new system, but Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder estimated just more than 12 million US consumers would have Vista by the end of the year, out of about 235 million PCs in the country. As for the compatibility problems, two million devices—such as cameras and printers—now work with Vista, said Dave Wascha, a director in the Windows Client group. “We are way ahead with Windows Vista right now than where we were when we shipped Windows XP,” he said.
Still, it is an uphill battle: Vista interacts differently with programs and peripherals than previous versions of Windows, and some companies have chosen not to spend time and money updating older products. Printer makers, Wascha noted, draw profits from ink cartridges and services, and have little motivation to invest in updating drivers for old hardware. As a result, many early adopters have made a sport of grumbling about the one device or program they still cannot get to work.