Long-term readers might remember my rants against all these Vista bashers out there. It is time for yet another outburst in this series. It is this sentence that I have read so many times in the last weeks: "Windows 7 is what Vista should have been" that leaves me no other choice.
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A recent Computerworld article gave me a good start. According to research institutions, in particular Gartner, Vista is doing better in businesses than XP had by this time. I have blogged this already a year ago. At that time I contacted Gartner and asked for data about Vista's adoption rate. It turned out that Vista installations (not just sales) were outperforming those of XP after its release. If I could access these data so easily, then any journalist obviously would have had the same possibilities. But bashing Vista was en vogue, and nobody was really interested in such hard facts. Everyone wanted to be a part of the big anti-Vista community. As a journalist, blogger, or the local town crier, you couldn't be wrong if you slapped Vista. The harder you slapped, the more applause you would gain from the bloodthirsty crowds.
Now we are seeing just the opposite reaction. Windows 7 is everyone's darling. Even severe security issues are downplayed by the media. I think this behavior is a phenomenon that should interest every mass psychology researcher.
Most people just tend to parrot what they have heard elsewhere, without thinking for a minute if it really makes sense. The swine flu hysteria is another good example. Everyone was convinced that the world faces a big threat, but now nobody is interested in the topic anymore, even though there are more infected people out there than ever. You can't blame the media alone for this, because they just report what their audience wants to hear. Rest assured that if the swine flu virus could have been spread through the media like the economic downturn hysteria virus, then we would have really had a worldwide pandemic.
At the time of this writing, the sentence "Windows 7 is what Vista should have been" gets 1090 hits and "Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been" 5350 in Google. This is not too bad for a complete sentence. It classifies as what Richard Dawkins coined by the word "meme", which is nothing else than a brain virus. Every "good" Windows journalist or blogger has to write this sentence at least once, otherwise the crowds don't accept him or her as an expert in these matters. I have no doubt that these numbers will boost, as soon as Windows 7 is available in the shops and the rest of the mass media start parroting what specialist journalists have discovered already in their thorough investigations.
From a technical point of view, this sentence is just plain nonsense. Of course, Windows 7 is the best operating system that Microsoft has ever produced. This is no wonder, simply because it is their latest OS. However, if you compare the importance of Vista's innovations to those in Windows 7, then you have to admit that Windows 7 is just Windows Vista with a few additional gimmicks. Don't get me wrong – I love most of Windows 7's new gimmick features. Considering that Microsoft only had about two years to get them out, they did a great a job. The same high-paid developers had more than five years for Vista. It is hard to believe that their skills improved in the way that some journalists want to make us believe.
And this other widespread brain infection – that "Microsoft listened" to its customers – certainly can't be the cause either. Of course, they always "listen" because this is the best way to earn their money in the future. I mean, do you really believe that Microsoft can afford to create software that nobody wants to buy? They don't have the luxury of Open Source programmers who can just write software for the applause of their own little community.
Perhaps the only time Microsoft listened, in a more literal sense, was when they radically changed their strategy, as one Internet worm after the other crashed Windows XP. Microsoft more or less stopped their work on Vista and concentrated on SP2 for Windows XP to improve its security. Then they dropped quite a few gimmick features in Vista and focused on rebuilding Windows' security structure. Yes, indeed, Windows Vista was what Windows XP should have been. Vista was Microsoft's first operating system where security mattered more than anything else. Yes, Microsoft really "listened" to all its critics at this time, in a very literal sense. Well, as we all know, it didn't gain them the applause they had hoped for.
With Windows 7, Microsoft returned to their old habits. They give the journalists the gimmicks they can easily understand, so they have something to write about in their positive reviews. I think, if there hadn’t been the Vista bashing hysteria, that Microsoft would not have rebranded Vista and Windows 7 would be just Windows Vista SP3. Perhaps there would be fewer gimmicks in this OS update and instead we would see some solid improvements in UAC. But Microsoft had no time for that, because they needed to get a positive press as soon possible. Thus, from a marketing point of view, Windows 7 really is what Vista should have been.
But the gimmicks are not the only reason for Windows 7's marketing success. The main reason, and this might sound a little contradictory now, is that Vista paved the way for Windows 7. The Vista bashing wave began rolling only because of one reason: compatibility. Restructuring the operating system caused countless software compatibility issues. Of course, this was unavoidable, even though Microsoft did their best to remedy the effects. Time solved this problem, because software vendors sluggishly followed Microsoft. The second compatibility issue was missing device drivers and the high hardware demands that made Vista "incompatible" with most PCs when it was released. This was also unavoidable, because every new operating system had significantly higher hardware demands than its predecessor. It was always like this. The fact that this isn't the case with Windows 7 only proves that it is not a new operating system version, but just a great service pack.
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Therefore, it is not that Microsoft has adapted Windows 7 to the demands of the crowds – it is the environment that has adapted to Vista. So, in this very trivial sense, Windows 7 is what Vista should have been: Windows 7 is Vista! It is just that the journalists are writing now what they should have written two years ago. Hence, they "listened" and just adapted to Vista.