Why Vista will be GREAT!

by Chris Seibold Apr 25, 2006

There’s an old joke, one you’ve likely heard before, which goes something like this:

Q: “Why are you beating your head against the wall?”
A: “It feels so good when I stop.”

After you are through suturing your sides, you may want to rethink the joke because it tells us why Windows Vista will be great. As the joke notes, even the mediocre can seem pretty good when viewed from a carefully chosen perspective. Vista may be this decade’s version of Star Wars Episode I (loads of special effects, little else of interest) but in the end, the failing’s of Vista won’t really matter because it only has to be better than XP.

Before traveling down the “how great Windows Vista will be” path any further, it is a wise move by any author writing for Mac site to explicitly state a few things: Vista is just an OS X rip off, there is no conceivable way Vista will be better than OS X, and (most importantly) boy howdy, OS X is great.

That important message noted, we can return to the fate of Windows Vista. The actual release of Vista will be immediately followed by a Mandelbaum like “It’s go time” chant from the Mac and Linux communities. The list of features once promised for, and now missing from, Vista will be dragged out. Security holes will be highlighted and held aloft for widespread mockery. Any aspect of Vista that can possibly be seen as derivative of OS X will be labeled as outright Microsoft theft. Even the final ship date, whether tomorrow or sometime in ‘09, will generate a massive amount mirth for the staunchly anti-Microsoft among us.

While the minions of the Macintosh and the lemmings of Linux are busily heaping delicious derision on every facet of Vista that can possibly be interpreted as a flawed, their ranks will be joined, surprisingly, by the Windows Pros. These are the acolytes of the Windows world, the folk that poke around in the registry and modify the .dll files, these are the people who can actually remove spyware once the PC is infected. These people will not be satisfied. They will grouse about the lack of actual advantages in Vista, they will lament that the last good release of Windows carried the NT suffix. Their complaints, like the shrill whines of the Mac and Linux folks, just won’t matter.

As it turns out, not everyone is interested in computers. You, one can tell because you’re visiting Apple Matters, are one of the select few interested in the complete computing experience. While you are the exception, it is important to remember that, for the masses, a computer is little more than a weed eater. A weed eater spins a piece of nylon string at incredible speeds, when string meets overgrown grass, the grass loses. Occasionally, the string breaks and a length of the weed chopping nylon is slung off, invariably smacking the one who wields the trimmer squarely in the shin. The impact draws a little blood and raises a painful welt. Most yard owners rationalize the injury by chalking the incident up to the price of speedy yard work.

Should the weed eater stop cutting grass successfully, for whatever reason, the average yard owner will blame the weed eater, not the trimmer string or the grass. Most consumers view their computer the same way they view their weed eater. They don’t see the OS as something separate from the machine, they see it as an extension of the machine. Should the computer fail to get on the internet they’ll blame the machine and hope that all it needs is more trimmer string, errr, an adjustment in Windows.

To continue with the analogy, when you buy a new trimmer you compare it, reflexively, to your old trimmer. You’ll marvel that is starts with one pull, regard the quieter muffler with a grateful smile and appreciate the modern looks of the new plastics. Asked how much better your new trimmer is than the old one, you’ll say you wondered how you ever put up with that temperamental piece of garbage. Of course, you are comparing the new trimmer with a ten year old, badly maintained, worn out hunk of junk so the comparison isn’t very fair. Were both trimmers in equally pristine condition, you might note the features of the new trimmer don’t really add too the lawn trimming experience and your shins are still just as blood stained and lumpy.

For the vast majority of people buying a new computer the experience will be extraordinarily similar to the experience of replacing their old, worn out, trimmer. They’ve decided to get a new computer because the old machine isn’t performing very well. When that person fires up a machine with Vista preinstalled they are going to be thrilled. They’ll drool over the new eye candy, experience euphoria when investigating the new search feature and become orgiastic wihen they see Gadgets (if Dashboard widgets are any indicator the infatuation with Gadgets will be short lived).

And, that, quite simply, is why Vista will be regarded as “great” by most computer users. In the minds of the truly computer literate, people like you, Microsoft’s next offering may strike users as an example of a “me too” OS, but most people won’t be comparing Vista to the latest Linux build or to Leopard. Most people will be comparing Vista to XP (or 2000 or 98). In the end, to be great, Vista doesn’t have to be better than anything but the hardly maintained, spam filled, misplaced file ridden, mess of a computer it is replacing. So, when you ask yourself if Vista will be great, remember the competition isn’t very stiff.



  • Two lawyers are walking in the mountains, and they come upon a hungry mountain lion - they both freeze.  After a few seconds, the first lawyer starts lacing up his shoes, getting ready to run.  The second lawyer sees this and says, “What are you nuts?  You can’t outrun a mountain lion!”  The first lawyer replies, “I don’t have to outrun the mountain lion; I just have to outrun you.”


    notmart had this to say on Apr 25, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Man - that is a funny lawyer joke! Loved it.

    As to the column by Chris Seibold - you are exactly correct. The best and easily explained reason why Vista will be a big competitor yet again with Apple OS.

    Nice column.

    mozart11 had this to say on Apr 25, 2006 Posts: 35
  • Thanks for the laughs! You’ve helped my day enormously.

    Janet Meyer had this to say on Apr 25, 2006 Posts: 36
  • The “head against the wall” joke is great! (I haven’t heard it before). As for the article itself, it’s also great (as usual).  It’s all about “good enough” concept anyway. While Vista definitely won’t be great (I’m almost sure), it will be “good enough” at least after the first Service Pack. So there will be no Mac revolution… at least until Apple releases OS X “in the wild”. ;-]

    Frosty Grin had this to say on Apr 25, 2006 Posts: 33
  • Tip: While operating a weed eater - wear trousers wink

    Nice work Chris. You neatly point out how the PC market became and will likely stay as it is for a while. Most people don’t care about PCs.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Apr 25, 2006 Posts: 371
  • Preferably jeans.
    I think one could say that Vista will be more like a replacement weed eater that merely looks much more modern with transparent plastic styling and a beatiful laminated user’s guide, but isn’t actually any better at eating weeds. The surprise won’t be when windows breaks, but when you realise that actually the trasparent handles, go-faster stripes and mood lighting don’t actually add to the experience unless basic weed-munching functionality is improved.

    Benji had this to say on Apr 25, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Great analogy and great article, Chris. And excellent joke, Notmart - it summed up Chris’s whole article perfectly, and it was funny as.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Apr 25, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • Bad Beaver: Trousers? You mean pants, right?

    (if Dashboard widgets are any indicator the infatuation with Gadgets will be short lived).

    Wait, so the general consensus is that people don’t use dashboard anymore? Jeez, I haven’t even upgraded yet and one main feature is already in the junkyard :(

    But nice article. It’s all quite true indeed. Although your ‘weed eater’ analogy was a bit of a stretch.  I had to re-read it 4 times ‘til I understood. And even then it wasn’t very good wink

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Apr 26, 2006 Posts: 299
  • Luke, as long as it covers your legs I don’t care about how you call it wink

    And I do use Dashboard, all the time to be exact. It is just that after a while you will have found all the widgets that cater to your needs. Lately I’ve added a few, but they are not especially useful.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Apr 26, 2006 Posts: 371
  • I don’t how Vista will turn out, but I’m not sure I buy the notion that it will stop at being only “good enough.”  XP is a good OS.  It’s showing it’s age, but for all the costly OS X updates, there aren’t that many features in OS X that aren’t in XP, at least not many that I use. 

    So the places that XP lacks and Vista improves, like a nicer interface and a solid layer of security (provided they get this right, of course), will fill in what few gaps I find between the two systems.

    At that point, what exactly will be the complaints about Vista (and lord knows the Macbots will complain)?  Presuming it works as advertised, what will be wrong with it?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Apr 26, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Presuming it works as advertised

    The point made here is that it’s not the actual functionality advertised being included that’s at question (although the amount of functionality has obviously been reduced massively since its announcement blah blah) but that it is clouded for many users by the prevalence of mal/spyware/viruses etc that tend to get in the way of the actual computing/‘weed eating’ experience. What’s markedly _not_ advertised is a whateverware-free desktop environment. I fully recognise that you’re not troubled by these things and neither am I on my windows box, blessed as we are with the know-how simply to avoid these things. However for the average user who visits somewhat spurious websites and will download things without a second thought that you or I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, Vista will, I imagine, degenerate into shin-killing territory as nimbly and with as much enthusiasm as its predecessor.
    (Even without maladies windows in my experience copes poorly with the march of time. It’s particularly problematic when you’re strapped for hard drive space though I would guess you don’t have that problem.)

    a solid layer of security (provided they get this right, of course)

    That, judging by past performance, is likely to remain a beautiful dream. I’ll be impressed if Vista is _any_ more secure than XP to be honest. I haven’t seen anything that suggests it will be…

    I know I know XP isn’t actually that bad. But something that’s designed over something that just happened any day ;P

    Benji had this to say on Apr 26, 2006 Posts: 927
  • What I’m getting at, Ben, is the seemingly prevailing attitude that Vista is simply XP with a new interface.  But Vista implements a couple of key changes.  The default account is no longer an admin account, and installation of applications now requires a user name and password just like OS X.

    Again, provided this works as advertised, Vista will be plenty secure (although I personally wonder if the trade-off of having to enter a username and password every time they want to do anything will be worth it to the average user).

    So based on that, what exactly is the complaint about Vista?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Apr 26, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • You’ve got yourself into hot water here, Chris. I think another article is in order!

    Benji had this to say on Apr 26, 2006 Posts: 927
  • YES!! “Why Vista will be TERRIBLE” - go on! Do it just for the controversy!!!
    Your first article was relative of Vista to XP, but do one of Vista relative to OS X and Linux =D
    It hasn’t been done on this site yet.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Apr 26, 2006 Posts: 299
  • Aw, heck LMW, I don’t know that Vista will be horrible. It may be the greatest OS ever. The point of the article is that is doesn’t matter. The greatness or lack thereof will be espoused simultaneously without regard to actual quality.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Apr 26, 2006 Posts: 354
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