A Clearer View of Vista

By Rob Pegoraro
Thursday, January 24, 2008

There are times when I feel like I'm in a tiny minority of people who don't hate Windows Vista.

Vista arrived in stores and on consumer PCs at the end of last January, after years of delay. But as Windows XP's successor nears its first birthday, few customers seem inclined to celebrate.

For other software companies, Vista would be a blockbuster. But Microsoft has a tougher standard to meet: the success of previous Windows updates. Compared with XP and Windows 95, each of which had a comparable marketing push, Vista is a disappointment.

Two and a half weeks ago at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced that it had sold 100 million licenses for Vista. But in 2007, more than 270 million personal computers were sold worldwide, according to Gartner, a market-research firm.

Vista has had a much slower start than its predecessors, especially considering the rising number of people using operating systems not made by Microsoft, such as Mac OS X and Linux.

Computer manufacturers have noticed that; many have found it profitable to keep selling Windows XP as an option on their PCs. They were originally supposed to dump XP by the end of January, but Microsoft had to push that deadline to June 30.

Has Vista really been that much of a flop?

I can't say so. While I don't advise upgrading a working XP system to Vista -- there's a higher chance of things going wrong -- I do think it makes sense to get Vista on a new computer. Vista is not going away, and in day-to-day use it provides some substantial upgrades over previous Windows versions.

Laptops running Vista usually go in and out of sleep mode more reliably than in XP. The Windows Sidebar, which holds such useful tools as a calculator and a notepad on the side of the screen, spares me detours to the Start menu.

Vista's larger contribution to computing sanity may be in giving users a stronger sense of place.

Getting around the desktop is easier with Favorite Links, which takes you to such frequent stops as documents, picture and music folders. Folder icons include previews of the files inside them. And file searches are quicker than with XP.

On a computer strong enough for Vista's resource-heavy Aero graphics, you get extra visual help, like previews of open windows when you flip through them with the Alt and Tab keys or mouse over their taskbar buttons.

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