The Windows Vista Challenge

Charlie Owen has issued a challenge, but I’m not quite sure he understands why I’m complaining so much about the UI oversights found in Vista. Mind you, I haven’t said a word about Windows Vista’s Media Center – I haven’t had a chance to play with it extensively yet. Before I respond, I’d like everybody to read Why Vista will mean the end of the Microsoft monolith:

The Vista saga has two interesting lessons for the computer business. It raises, for example, the question of whether this way of producing software products of this complexity has reached its natural limit. Microsoft is an extremely rich, resourceful company – and yet the task of creating and shipping Vista stretched it to breaking point. A lesser company would have buckled under the strain. And yet while Microsoft engineers were trudging through their death march, the open source community shipped a series of major upgrades to the Linux operating system. How can hackers, scattered across the globe, working for no pay, linked only by the net and shared values, apparently outperform the smartest software company on the planet?

Challenge?! You can operate an XGL desktop perfectly without having to upgrade your video card first. To add insult to injury, XGL sports infinitely better (and reasonably more) eye candy than Aero does. Windows Vista is hardware hungry, no doubt – and I’m challenging Microsoft’s assertion that Aero is a “breakthrough user experience.”

No, it’s not – Vista’s UI is not breakthrough, Charlie. It’s broken. XGL, on the other hand, is breakthrough – and I find myself wondering how long it’s going to take for someone to port that to OS X. Windows Vista is not revolutionary – it’s evolutionary (barely, at that). A recently releaesd Mandriva Linux 2007 RC1 comes bundled XGL and AIGLX with Compiz, by the way.

Vista is already taking a beating, whether by Apple fanboys from InfoWorld, UAC task forces, or old Latvian women. There is no perfect operating system, and I’m certainly not suggesting that Linux and/or OS X are totally teh shiz. What I am saying, however, is that as far as cohesive, compelling user experiences go – I believe that Vista’s Aero fails (on the whole).

I understand that thousands of people poured their blood, sweat, and tears into pushing Windows Vista out the door – but I started to get impatient two years ago, only to be handed an RC that looked more like a early beta (I said “alpha” earlier, but perhaps that was a little harsh on my part). If Linux (with XGL) and Leopard (with UNO) aren’t challenging Microsoft to take UI more seriously, nothing ever will. In this arena, Windows has already been challenged – and remains truly challenged.

23 thoughts on “The Windows Vista Challenge”

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  7. I have a issue also, over the weekend I was listening to Chris’s podcast from CES where he talked with someone working on AERO. In the convation the guy from microsoft said there would be no image lock up on vista well wouldn’t you know it that I had this problem this morning and it lasted for two minutes. Come to my blog to check it out.

  8. Would MS dare open up an old version of Windows, perhaps Win 2000, and make it open source � see what a community of developers could make of it…and help bring MS to developing countries legally…

  9. I think your comments would have more weight if you spared the hyperbole: “infinitely better,” etc. It’s a great way to get more hits, though. I see more eye candy in XGL, but “compelling”? I’m not following (and as I recall, Microsoft demonstrated these very same effects–the wavy windows, etc.–YEARS ago on early builds of Longhorn, and subsequently dropped many of them).

    If I demo-ed this to my company, I’d be laughed out of the boardroom as if I were some punk kid that doesn’t understand what makes their business run. Even for the home user, add a lot of gratuitous eye candy, and chances are they’ll be asking how to turn it off (like the free Aqua dock add-on for Windows XP that I installed for a few friends–after a week, they couldn’t stand it anymore). Tell me just how it is compelling. I don’t see how XGL is significantly more compelling than Vista. From a UI perspective, I don’t think the transparencies, window effects, task switching previews, etc. are really going to change the way I work in any substantive way. And revolutionary? Give me a break. You’re right that Vista’s UI is not revolutionary. But by the very same measure, neither is XGL. The graphics infrastructure model is significantly upgraded, but from a true User Interface perspective, neither is “revolutionary.” This big gulf you point to between the Vista UI and XGL–I’m just not seeing it. If you showed both to the man on the street, I think he’d have trouble picking out a major difference.

    The statement regarding upgrading the video card for Vista is also a bit overstated–you can run Aero Glass on quite a few integrated graphics solutions, even. You need support for shader model 2.0.

  10. Back in the dawn of time, in the early to mid 90’s, IBM thought they had a hammerlock on the PC market. They became quite arrogrant, believing they owned the market, and used FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) to scare people into not switching computer brands.

    It didn’t work. Innovators began making better PCs, for less money too. Now IBM doesn’t even make PCs…

    Maybe Microsoft should start releasing a core, like Linux does, then let others build whatever they want on top of it.

  11. Take the challenge Chris. I’m with Charlie on this one – I think you’ll loose. I’m running Vista RC1 on my Lenovo 3000 N100 and I’d call it a revolutionary upgrade – much more than evolutionary. I’ve been running the Vista betas on my Motion Computing tablet for months with One Note 2007 – impressive. I commend Microsoft for their efforts. Take the challenger or decline publicly ; ) You can’t respond to his challenge with a different challenge – you either accept or you don’t.

    Here’s a challenge for you. Really get behind what you’re saying, and start using Linux exclusively. Have fun with that. Vista provides a compelling, beautiful, cohesive, and more importantly compatible user interface.

    I think you need to add some reality to your Vista rants. Or, are these just desgined to attract the attention of Microsofties and keep the traffic flowing? Maybe you should let some of their usability experts hack away at your web properties.

    Cale –

    P.S. – I’m a big fan of the open-source software movement. Some of my favorite apps (Synergy for example) are open-source. Didn’t want you to think I’m some kind of Microsoft forever fan.

  12. Chris switch to Linux? That wouldnt happen!! Although it might be exactly what the Linux communtiy needs. It would be cool if Chris dedicated one month to using Linux.


  13. “Here’s a challenge for you. Really get behind what you’re saying, and start using Linux exclusively. Have fun with that. Vista provides a compelling, beautiful, cohesive, and more importantly compatible user interface.”

    I laughed so hard I wet myself a little. Compatible? Pull the other one. Compelling? It compels me to vomit honestly. Beautiful? Put down the reefer hippy.

    Oh, and I use Linux full time. Gee it’s hard. Oh wait, no it isn’t. You just haven’t used a GNU/Linux since you were 13 and thought it would make you cooler to be different.

  14. Will my employees be able to use this new version of Linux without huge training expenses? Will my IT department be able to implement and support this new version of Linux without huge personel expenses? Will my current applications work with this new version of Linux without huge upgrade expenses?

    If 95% of the PC world is already Windows based, what is the advantage in jumping platforms? My employees would become less efficient as they struggled to learn a new UI that is different from what they use at work and at home. My IT staff is Windows savvy…where would I hire Linux support from? Microsoft sells their software assurance plan and it includes upgrades to their Office and Exchange applications, both of which I would have to replace with expensive, newly purchased applications in a Linux environment.

  15. Chris, I understand what you are saying about Vista against XGL it is much slicker and seems to be less memory hungry. There is a big but with Linux though, I had to make a number of config changes to get XGL to work and that’s often the case with Linux. As a developer that’s not to much of a problem, but you won’t get my mum doing that.

    I have to say though we have all gone over the top with this look an feel stuff. It’s like the current Web 2.0 bubble where everything looks wacky, hip and trendy. Do we realy need a glass effect or a wabble?

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