Windows Vista was the first major deviation in an operating system for Microsoft’s since 95’s improvement over the previous editions (which still incorporated DOS extensively).  Windows 98 and XP, which were certainly popular, were more expansions on Windows 95 than independent formats.  While 95 represented a revolution in the realm of personal computing, instead of hitting the ground running, Vista landed and then tripped over its own feet.  After barely a year on the open market, Microsoft decided to scrap the Vista name, fix the biggest errors, and repackage the system as Windows 7.  How did one of the largest and most successful tech firms in history make a mistake of this magnitude?

 

Vista hit the racks (figuratively and literally) during the early part of 2007.  The marketing strategy revolved around an up to date user interface, stronger security and firewalls to prevent viruses and malware, and a greater incorporation of internet search and multimedia programs.  The last two items were obviously a nod that Apple and Google had products that offered advantages over the previous Windows editions.  This was a bit of a revelation as Microsoft had rarely acknowledged that any competitors offered a strong enough threat to affect their overall business and development strategies.

 

The Mac vs. PC commercials featuring Justin Long may have doomed Windows Vista from the get go. Coinciding with the Vista release, Apple released a commercial in which the PC characters claims that Vista will not have the problems offered by previous Windows’ versions (this is coupled with flashbacks that show PC saying the same thing for every prior release of Windows (XP, 98, 95, etc.).  So when it became obvious that Vista did have some of the same problems (in addition to a few of its own) – Apple could chuckle with a series of commercials that had become all too accurate.

 

So what were the issues that frustrated Windows Vista users?  A major one revolved around the inability to integrate many popular programs offered by third party companies.  The security firewall of Vista would often block (intentionally or accidentally) drivers from being installed by external programs.  If this is a malware program – this is a good thing, but when it blocks a driver that a user clearly wants, that is an issue.  Even users of the extremely popular iTunes and Adobe suite found problems with full compatibility for their programs.  These two items are so popular that this could not be swept under the rug or considered a rare case.  There were even occasions where songs downloaded from iTunes would corrupt iPods after being uploaded.  People tend to frown upon their digital media destroying their hardware.  Another issue involved networking for VPN users.  Users who were trying to work from home by logging into their business computer found the Vista VPN system very difficult (there actually still exist issues for this with Windows 7).  Consumers became very frustrated that a corporation with the volume and cash flows of Microsoft released a product with issues that should have been foreseen and never made it past beta testing.  It was simply an unacceptable situation.

 

On the plus side, Microsoft has remedied many of these problems with the Windows 7 release.  Critics have found it to be the best system from the company in a very long time.  Since Microsoft has often been (rightly) accused of resting on its laurels, taking the proactive approach by doing a complete overhaul (even in packaging) was a very wise decision.  This system is a cleaner OS, more friendly to users, the interface is much improved, and it is much more compatible with third party software than the previous system.  So kudos on that one Bill Gates.

– Felix Chesterfield

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