Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Vista Premiere: Good in the Barn, not On the Dance Floor

I attended a locally-hosted Vista premiere last night. Some observations:

  • Microsoft should reconsider the policy of having locals present Vista in cities bursting with technologists as the area I live in is. There are too many unanswered questions, not a good pace to the presentation, and the audience comments tend to take over

  • I won’t buy this soon. The graphics eat any machine more than three years old. If like me, you have one of those Dell’s that can only accept 512k RAM max, you are as we say, SOL.

  • The voice recognition is impressive. The trouble is what will you do with that? It’s a cool demo when you can speak to Notepad and it gets a very high percentage of that right, but for anything very long, unless you are sight-impaired or arthritic, text composition by typing is a hand-to-eye learned activity and fingers don’t wear out as fast as a voice does. Still it is very impressive.

  • Did I say the graphics eat the machine? While Aero’s see through panes and 3D-like displays are great eye-candy, I didn’t see anything very productive about them. Is it worth buying another machine to do jobs I can already do with the machine I have? No.

  • The biggest feature that is appreciably touted in a one hour demo is the improved security. Unfortunately, that is like a demo of the brakes in your car. Until you are in trouble at high speed, it is a nice-to-have when you finally need it, but not a feature that is demo-enhancing. There are better features for setting up a machine but these are not used that often outside of a computer installation shop, so the ratings system that impressed the demo technician doesn’t get more than a yawn out of me. I suspect that there are a lot of new Vista features that are like that. They are real improvements but only in that they fix the glaring bugs of the previous system, or are mostly useful when the system is first set up or to the technicians who do that often. In other words, it is solid, but not sexy.

  • The almost subtle but possibly most revelatory feature is that the web browser is just another window as it should have always been. In other words, Vista clearly shows that web ubiquity is here but like the ubiquity of paved roads and traffic lights, not to be noticed unless absent.

    Overall, I don’t think I’ll be interested in Vista until the applications written for it are so compelling that it is a must have. Microsoft’s mystifying failure to recognize and provide for the hot 3D market is an indicator that once again, their futurists and evangelists are behind the curve the same way Nashville is behind New York and Los Angeles when it comes to music. The Music Row mindset is very good at getting out product that the middle of the demographics wanted yesterday, but not so good at changing mindsets for a new and different paradigm of user-computer interaction, much less the follow-on social interactions that come of systems who’s main application is human-to-human communication.

    So far, Vista looks good in the barn, but not on the dance floor.
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