To Vista or Not to Vista – That is the Question in January

  • Comments: 1
  • Written on: July 19th, 2006

Between now and January – and even a bit beyond that – I will probably be asked a thousand times if it is wise to immediately purchase Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows Vista, as soon as it is released.

My answer is always that the pioneers are the ones who take the arrows, so sometimes it’s ok to wait a couple months so you know if the product lives up to the marketing hype. While this was true of Windows XP (remember Service Packs 1, 1a, and 2?) it will be an even greater concern in Vista. Many pieces of Vista have been completely rebuilt from the ground up to be more secure and stable according to Microsoft, but the new code is fresh and not tested to the extent that Windows XP’s core has been over time.

Symantec, a rival of Microsoft’s in the security market, released a study yesterday that suggested the completely redesigned networking system in Vista will be less stable than the existing networking stack in Windows XP – at least in the short run. The company critiqued one of Microsoft’s beta versions of Vista and found numerous stability concerns that could give network administrators who deploy Vista in January a migraine of epic proportion.

Microsoft responded that Symantec was testing a beta version of the operating system, and that the purpose of a beta was to identify and resolve issues like these before the software is released to the public. While it is highly doubtful that Symantec, who is currently suing Microsoft in an unrelated case, is helping the Redmond, WA software company out of the goodness of its heart, their study does raise an interesting point.

The core engine of Windows XP has been around since Windows NT, with some files and code dating back to Windows 3.1 for Work-groups. This code is battle tested, has been attacked, patched, retested, and finally certified “reliable” for professional use. Symantec is insinuating that Microsoft is abandoning these hardened technologies and replacing them with new, untested code in Windows Vista. A news story quoted Symantec as calling Vista’s networking stack as “virgin code.”

The concept behind this argument is a simple one. If you are an IT administrator who is responsible for keeping a corporate network up and running would you want to put your neck on the chopping block because Microsoft says Vista is safer, more secure, and more reliable? Wouldn’t you want to let someone else try first before you risk your career on what would be a huge network upgrade with what some say is little gain in functionality?

However, it is important to note that Symantec has a vested interest in delaying the adoption of Windows Vista. The new operating system is the culmination of 5 years of Microsoft’s focus on security, and includes a host of new technologies that will render many of today’s spyware threats obsolete. In addition, Microsoft is planning on deploying anti-virus software to Vista users via a free trial offer that could be offered as a Windows Update. With Symantec subscription renewals at stake, any delay in the release, or the acceptance, of Vista is money in Symantec’s pocket.

After all of the dust settles, Microsoft will address the concerns Symantec raised and probably a lot more that will come to light over time. But my core recommendation has not changed. You won’t find me in line at 12:01 AM on January 1st waiting for Vista. I hear that the Surgeon General says arrows are bad for your health, so I am sticking with XP after Vista’s release, at least for a couple of months.

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