Vista RC1 signposts a slip? (and broken keyboards)

Incoming! It's IT Blogwatch, in which Microsoft unleashes the first Vista release candidate on an unsuspecting world. Not to mention the amazing, keyboard-breaking Pipecleaner Dance Mk. III...

Preston Gralla reports:

Microsoft Corp. today unveiled the details of its sweeping plan to get Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1) into the hands of millions of new testers and released final pricing for the operating system. The public test of RC1 will involve more than 5 million users and will dramatically increase the availability of Windows Vista to millions of new users -- more than doubling the size of its initial Beta 2 Customer Preview Program (CPP).

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After the release candidate has been made available to existing CPP participants, the program will be opened to new users. In addition, RC1 will be posted to MSDN and TechNet, where subscribers can download it. Microsoft will also include cover mounts of RC1 on magazines worldwide.

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The widespread testing of RC1 is being done to help Microsoft meet a January 2007 deadline for getting Windows Vista into the hands of consumers and a November 2006 deadline for getting it to volume license customers ... RC1 will work until May 31, 2007, after which it will time out.

Ars's Ken Fisher has the prices:

After a series of leaks, Microsoft has finally announced the pricing for Windows Vista. Here it is, for the US market:
  • Windows Vista Home Basic: $199
  • Windows Vista Home Premium: $239
  • Windows Vista Business: $299
  • Windows Vista Ultimate: $399
... Business Edition loses Premium's Media Center functionality in favor of its management functions, which seems like more of a trade-off than a feature boost... so why charge so much more for it? (More on the different versions, here.) ... Ultimate is priced at a premium that many users may balk at. And when it comes to OEM sales from the big boys like Dell, the challenge will be massaging a $400 OS into their line-up. Vista will sell well, but Microsoft has a marketing challenge on their hands when it comes to Ultimate.

But Joe Wilcox sees slippage:

I assume that some of Windows Vista developers got to take off the three-day holiday weekend, seeing as how Microsoft completed Release Candidate 1 on Friday ... Microsoft ... has plenty of work still to do ... Release Candidate 1 is not a near final version. I was told that Microsoft's approach--perhaps, definition--of a release candidate had "evolved." I countered that Microsoft had changed the definition. The difference in definition is significant, because of its measure of Microsoft's potential progress.

Brandon LeBlanc disagrees:

The performance enhancements and stability of the OS displayed in RC1 are too good to ignore and too good for any beta or alpha build. However, Microsoft needs to seriously look at the UI inconsistencies ... The fact that many of the apps included in Vista have different toolbar and menus is simply unacceptable.

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RC1 does not show signs of any major problems that would cause Microsoft to delay Vista again before RTM. I think they really have nailed the performance issues down and you can see the quality of Microsoft’s efforts here in RC1. However I think Vista’s biggest problem today is driver support. I think RC1 should stand as a wake-up call to all the hardware manufacturers out there that you need to look at Vista and start planning ahead.

Michael K. Campbell says, "No thanks":

I'm pretty much fed up with Vista at this point. Hopefully some big changes will make their way in prior to release, but I really couldn't help feeling that even after 5 years, the thing still has way too many warts and really has that 'Microsoft 1.0' feel to it. Something I really don't want from my OS, and something that is quite frustrating from an OS that's been hard-core 'in the works' for 5+ years now.

Maybe I'm just feeling let down. You see, I REALLY wanted to transition to Vista. RC1 should be stable enough, and I REALLY am a geek, and I REALLY like Microsoft's stuff in general. But easily 80% of the applications I need on a daily basis to make $$ and get things done simply didn't work with Vista. So, while it's got some incredibly eye candy, it's now a 27 GB paper-weight partition on my laptop's HD... something I'll likely delete in a few days.

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(Though, I'll be doing a review of Office 12 here in a while, and it IS the cat's meow from everything I've seen and tested ... stay posted. The big thing: it fixes all of the CRAP bugs and issues with Office 2003, which is a MAJOR WIN.)

Even Paul Thurrott has reservations:

In a recent showcase, I highlighted five things I really like about Windows Vista. That's a cute list, and certainly, I could easily come up with another 5, or 10, or 20. And you know, maybe I'll do just that. But first, I'd like to discuss a number of problems I have with Windows Vista

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Windows Vista isn't perfect. It's not even close to perfect. It's better than Windows XP is, of course, but it damn well should be: It benefits from five more years of experience and work. Being better is the minimum requirement ... let's harp a bit on the things I don't like about Vista as it now stands in RC1 form

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It's the UI, stupid. Actually, it's a stupid UI ... one of the single stupidest UI decisions I've ever seen ... UI guys are going to have a field day with this one ... Stupid, stupid, stupid ... The behavior is different almost every time, and it's never clear what the reason is ... When I download something, how come it disappears? Why doesn't the Downloads window open when the download is complete? Why isn't Downloads on the Start Menu if it's the default in IE? Was the desktop too logical and commonly-used a destination? ... How come x64 is so horrible? Does Microsoft want Apple to make it look silly again?

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A few applications that need to be brought out back and shot ... Windows Sidebar ... this bloated, semi-useless strip of screen real estate-stealing UI is enabled by default on Vista, that it takes forever to load, causing your effective boot time to almost double, and that it takes multiple steps to actually kill it ... take User Account Control (UAC), please. No seriously, please take it. And kill it. And stomp on its dead body. And then hang it on a flag pole as a warning to others ... Let's talk photo import. It's broken in Windows Vista, horribly broken ... Windows Vista's antivirus and anti-spam features are particularly embarrassing because of Microsoft's stated focus on security in Windows Vista. Oh, and because there aren't any.

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Overall, Windows Vista is a stunning bit of work. But the devil is in the details, as they say, and Microsoft has never been very good at consistency and that final bit of polish that separates something competent from something wonderful.

Channel9'ers discuss Thurrott's parentage:

jaylittle: Paul Thurrot is a blundering idiot ... The level of polish that is present in this build is totally incomparable to that of earlier builds.

julianbenjamin: I'm surprised after his WGA fiasco he has the audacity to criticize again.  He was shown to be just another sensationalist writer, and that hasn't changed.

Shining Arcanine: Anyway, Paul Thurrott has had quite a few good things to say about Windows Vista. Take a look at them; the quantity is really impressive.

Buffer overflow:

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Around Computerworld

And finally... Responsible for rhythmic pounding of keyboards all across the world, it's Pipecleaner Dance III! [hat tip: goatBlog]

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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