Is the job of providing an efficient and reliable PC operating system that is cool and runs every last hardware device and application simply gotten too big? Even at the risk of walking away from its incredibly lucrative Windows monopoly, that is a question Microsoft should ask itself.
The question arises in my mind after my first unsuccessful attempt to upgrade from Windows XP to Vista, Microsoft's new operating system. Vista has been wracked by delays and reliability problems. Now, I have not studied Vista or followed its ups and downs as it has gone through the rocky beta process. I merely tried to install it (a 32-bit “release to manufacturing” version which I assume is the imminent commercial version). It didn't work, even though Microsoft's free Vista Advisor utility — which scans the PC before upgrading — said I was ready to go, save a few “minor” hardware and software incompatibilities that could be fixed after installation. All it said I needed to do before installing was get some updates, which I did.
So why is it that installing a major, new PC application makes you feel like your computer is different from everybody else's? It must be me. I must have done something wrong. My paranoia arises from my failure to successfully install the home edition of Microsoft Vista. Here's what happened.
After three hours of “checking compatibility” and “installing” Vista, the two major steps of the upgrade, I went to bed with a solid green screen and the words “upgrading Windows.” The same “upgrading Windows” was frozen on the screen when I returned nine hours later. I switched the machine off and got the not-so-surprising message that the upgrade was not successful. Thankfully, I was rolled back to XP so the machine is functioning. Although, if Microsoft was confident in Vista, why would they have the rollback feature? Historically, Microsoft has immediately pushed older OSes into the background upon release of new versions. Either way, I'm glad it rolled back.
During the early steps, it warned me that a half-dozen applications “might” not run in Vista, but most of them were insignificant. And I had already un-installed my McAfee virus checkers as Vista instructs before moving ahead with the upgrade. So I soldiered on and hit “next” — all for naught.
One thing is for sure — even the smoothest upgrade will take hours and Vista warned me of that. Maybe I should have waited longer and the warning should have been “this could take days.” I am having a hard time imagining a slew of PC users, who recently purchased Vista, having the same experience as me (it must be me!). Could Vista bomb, given all the delays so far and continuing reliability problems? That's not out of the realm of possibility. Suggesting the job of creating a reliable OS that improves upon its predecessor is too big, even for a company with the resources and brains of Microsoft.
The configuration on my Dell machine isn't much different than tens of millions of others. I primarily run Outlook, Office, Excel, Firefox and Word. Sure, some junk has accumulated on the machine, but it should not have gotten in the way of the upgrade.
By the time you read this, I will probably be running Vista because I will try again and Microsoft provides assistance to the media. For this first go round, was it me or them? Visit my “If it ain't broke ...” blog and tell me what you think.