XP downgrades are just plain dumb

Recently a friend of mine went out to buy a PC. Normally he would have just taken the "Windows" that came on the machine and walked out. But with all of the broughaha over Vista he wanted to know: Should I buy XP instead?

So it's come to this: Biases in the tech community are starting to affect consumer behavior. Ok, so there are things about Vista that people don't like. But is it so bad that we should be recommending that consumers downgrade to a seven year old operating system?

Now the latest broughaha is over Intel's decision not to move its own PCs to Vista. Yes, Vista has been a marketing disaster for Microsoft. And the verdict on Vista in business is in question, judging by what these IT professionals say. But consumers shouldn't get caught up in the hype when making a personal decision on the right technology choice for a new Windows PC.

What is it about Windows Vista that gets people so cranked up? We have become obsessed with XP to the point where Microsoft's sliding retirement schedule for the aging OS has become almost a past time (Witness XP Deathwatch). Vendors have been offering an XP downgrade option for months. Now with Microsoft's attempt to push people beyond Vista it will cost money to do so. That's a good idea.

It makes no sense for consumers to be buying XP on new systems designed to run Vista. By the time those systems are retired they'll be working on a functionally obsolete operating system that's at least ten years old.

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For its part, Microsoft needs to stop being so wishy-washy and stand firm on phasing out XP. Slow enterprise adoption may mandate extension of support (security patches and updates) through 2014, but there’s no reason to keep consumers on outdated technology. If users don't like Vista they can certainly buy a Mac. But most people shouldn’t be buying XP with new systems if they're buying a Windows computer. Period.

Everything consumers need to know about the Vista decision they can find in three Computerworld articles. Here's what's not to like about Vista. Here's what you'll like about it. And here's the full review of Vista.

So what did the reviewers say? Here's the bottom line from Preston Gralla: “…forget the wouldas, shouldas and couldas. Windows Vista is a far better operating system than Windows XP.” As for reviewer and Computerworld EIC Scot Finnie: “Is Vista an excellent version of Windows? Yes. It's better than XP.” [SEE EDITOR'S NOTE BELOW]. What's changed since then, other than a lot of bad marketing? Nothing.

Finnie and Gralla have their quibbles - and Finnie ended up moving to the Mac - but I suspect that even today, neither would advocate downgrading from Vista to XP on a new machine.

Vista owners can find plenty of resources for hammering Vista into a very usable and customized form. Check out The Ultimate Tweaker’s Guide to Windows, Five Ways to Bend Windows Vista to Your Will and Top 10 Vista Hacks.

Downgrade to XP on that new machine? Don't be a sucker. If you want a Windows PC get Vista. If you don't like it go to Linux or the Mac. But don't buy XP.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

After this posting, Computerworld editor in chief Scot Finnie weighed in to clarify his position on choosing between Vista and XP.

"I do think that at its core the Vista kernel is better than XP's. But I also wrote [in the same review]: 'I'm so unsure that I like Vista's trade-offs, like User Account Control and Software Protection Platform, that I'm giving the Mac equal opportunity to become my next OS.'

And the Mac won the war." (See Windows Expert to Redmond: Buh-bye).

As for choosing betweeen Vista and XP, today, Finnie falls firmly into the XP camp. In his blog post, Windows XP or Vista, he talks about his decision to consolidate his Vista installations from five machines to two, one of which runs dual-boot with XP.

From the posting: "Windows XP is a mature operating system that's not trying to be something that it's not. The user experience is better than Vista's."

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