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article imageMicrosoft Launches Windows Vista, So is it Worth the Upgrade?

By David Silverberg     Jan 29, 2007 in Technology
Digital Journal — Microsoft’s newborn, launching tomorrow, will likely amaze the world with a flashy interface and innovative features. But Windows Vista is under too much criticism to reach the kind of acclaim the software giant expects, so is it worth all the buzz?
If you have Windows XP, Vista’s interface resembles its predecessor but throws in a few snazzy graphics to up the visual ante. Its features are similar to any you’d find on Linux products or freeware, and its new Windows Mail is comparable to Outlook Express.
But here’s where things get tricky. Windows Vista Ultimate, the top-of-the-line edition out of six Vista versions, costs twice as much as the Home Basic product but its graphical excellence is touted as its main selling point. Ideal for hardcore gamers or media fiends, Vista Ultimate is the OS of choice, even if the upgrade will bruise the bank account in the short term.
With six versions available, Vista is already confusing consumers. Should the average PC user get the Home Basic or Home Premium? Would an entrepreneur benefit from Vista Business or Vista Ultimate? Perhaps Microsoft saw this OS diversity as a plus instead of a minus, but even to the tech savvy the available choices can be inundating.
Once the OS is installed, though, it’s apparent why Microsoft is gushing over the new features. Live thumbnails let you see a website or video when you hover your mouse over any window in the taskbar. Also, Microsoft is always under criticism for security flaws, so it includes spyware protection called Windows Defender to instantly remove software rated “high” or severe.”
And as Digital Journal noted in the summer during a beta test, the add-ons warrant a double-take. Vista lets you search through your hard drive effectively, adding keywords to metadata of JPEGs so that the OS can find any buried photo without having to rely on the file’s name or location.
Windows Photo Gallery is impressive, since you can create slideshows and take advantage of photo-editing tools such as red-eye elimination and photo clean-up. And Vista’s Movie Maker is turning heads for letting you sync music with video easily.
As promising as these features are, Vista users will still endure their fair share of headaches. Garnering the most press is Vista’s “fine print” that allegedly wrestles control away from the user in order to keep everything under the Microsoft umbrella.
As Michael Geist reports in the Toronto Star, “users ‘activate’ Vista by associating it with a particular computer or device and transmitting certain hardware information directly to Microsoft.” As if corporations didn’t know enough about our buying habits already.
Geist also attacks Vista’s legal agreement, “which grants Microsoft the right to revalidate the software or to require users to reactivate it should they make changes to their computer components.”
By enforcing a monopoly on a user’s home system, other companies are being stiff-armed. Rivals of Microsoft are already complaining about Vista, last week asking the European Commission to act on the charge that Microsoft is extending its market dominance in areas such as Web-based computing. IBM, Nokia, Sun Microsystems and Oracle are among the critics.
Even more bothersome for some tech experts is Vista’s “User Account Control,” which pops up confirmation boxes if you do anything that affects Windows. As the Washington Post notices, “The constant barrage of nags…is a disaster in the making. They don’t teach which programs are safe; you get the same vague warning whether you’re installing a video game or a virus.
Despite the storm clouds threatening to rain on Vista’s parade, Microsoft remains optimistic the masses will throng to the new OS. “Vista takes advantage of wireless networking, of integrated entertainment,” says Mike Bulmer, senior product manager of Microsoft Canada. “Upgrading to Vista enhances the computing experience, and also makes it more secure.”
File photo: Amber MacArthur
File photo: Amber MacArthur
Blocking malicious attacks has always been Microsoft’s priority, so they were well-prepared with their latest upgrade. As Yahoo News reported, the switch to Vista eases security fears because Internet Explorer holes have been plugged, and the browser now operates in “Protected Mode,” which guards files against outside attacks.
Also, hacker-hatin’ encryption, available only in Business and Enterprise editions, keeps your data safe so only you can access your computer with a password. It might be a CPU drain, but IT managers are constantly prioritizing identify-theft protection to improve their business prerogative.
All the security fixes and feature enhancements weren’t solely dreamed up by Bill Gates and company. Bulmer says five million beta testers, and one billion testing sessions, helped tweak Vista from its bare-bones skeleton to the full-fleshed OS it is today. “Microsoft took advantage of Windows users who were passionate about suggesting what we should do with Vista,” Bulmer says.
Curious customers should find out what Vista versions suits them by visiting the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, Bulmer suggests. This should address the growing concern that four editions could confuse interested Vista buyers.
As much an improvement Vista is over XP, it is bundled with a steep learning curve and several drawbacks to keep it for winning global acclaim. As PC Magazine notes, IT department and vendors will struggle with Vista for years, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can be frustrating.
You can succumb to early adoption or you take the advice Digital Journal offered in a recent news report: wait until IT pros give the thumbs-up, until any noticeable security patches have been fixed. Realizing Microsoft’s reputation as a target, PC users should be somewhat sceptical of charging head-down into Vista’s world without learning more about the new OS and finding out if the upgrade is worth it for their everyday functions.
After all, it’s easy to take a company at its word and believe a product will change your life. It’s harder, and more rewarding, to analyze if a certain technology will do everything it promises.
For an in-depth tour of Windows Vista, showcasing the product’s many features, catch CBC Newsworld chatting with Digital Journal Editor-in-Chief Christopher Hogg on Tuesday, January 30 at 6:30am (EST) to discuss Windows Vista. The show will air again at 8:30am (EST).
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