Ballmer says skip Vista

Boy, I wish I'd been at Gartner's Symposium ITxpo in Orlando, Fla. this year. That way I could heard with my own ears, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tell an audience of high-level business people that if they want to wait for Windows 7 to switch from XP, instead of going to Vista, "They certainly can."

Mind you, this was at the same show, where earlier, Gartner analyst Yvonne Genovese had tore into Ballmer like a hurricane saying she had installed Vista for her daughter -- and two days later went right back to using XP . "It's safe, it works, all the hardware is fine, and everything is great," Genovese said

She went on to say that "What we're seeing and what we're hearing from users is a very similar thing. It's difficult to implement." Amen sister. Vista is junk. And, yes, I speak from experience. I finally got Vista to work properly with all my hardware and software on one PC after 16-months of trying. But, hey, at least I got everything to work. A lot of people haven't been so lucky.

Microsoft has been stepping back from Vista for some time now. In early October, Microsoft quietly announced that it was extending sales of XP Professional SP3. In my opinion, XP SP3 is a much better operating system than Vista will ever be. Before that, Microsoft started fast-tracking Windows 7 and deemphasizing Vista. I've also noticed that, after giving up on those terrible Bill Gates and Seinfeld ads, Microsoft's equally awful "I'm a PC" ads seem to be disappearing off the airwaves.

What Microsoft has not done though is tell us exactly what we're getting in Windows 7. Is it just warmed over Vista? After all, at the Gartner conference, Ballmer said, ""Windows Vista is good; Windows 7 is Windows Vista with cleanup in user interface [and] improvements in performance." Good luck with that idea guys! Or is it as Mike Nash, vice president of Windows product management, said at the same show "It is in every way a major effort in design, engineering and innovation."

I'm betting on 7 being Vista SP2 with a lot of marketing hype.

Be that as it may, Microsoft's Vista failure is continuing to give both the Linux desktop and the Mac a window to make gains on the desktop. Apple, with its continued run of great new Macs, albeit not as cheap as many people would like to see, is doing well at this.

What Apple needs to do now is to start giving those fab machines some strong business and technical support. Lots of individual business users love their Macs. Apple needs to make it easier for IT departments to love Macs as well.

As for the Linux desktop, Novell, with SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10, is the only company that's making it easy for business users to jump to the Linux desktop. That's not enough.

The Linux desktop needs three technical improvements. These are: better laptop power management; more of the applications that users want; and, like it or lump it, better Windows interoperability/virtualization.

But, come on; Linux already has better technology in Windows in important areas like security and stability. What it really needs is for the Linux vendors to deliver more and better business support for desktop Linux. Red Hat isn't interested; they're making their billions from servers. But others like Canonical and Ubuntu; Xandros; and Mandriva could give Novell competition in the SMB and enterprise desktop space. They just need to get their Linuxes installed natively into more PCs and put more muscle into their technical and business sales support staff.

Ballmer is continuing to give the Mac and Linux an excellent shot to grab the desktop. Now, it's up to Apple and the Linux distributors to seize their opportunity.

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