(Written for another site in January, I thought you might wish to see it here, as they did not use it.)
Bad reputations can be incredibly difficult to overcome and Microsoft's Vista operating system has enough of a bad rep that no one is going to let it date their sister, if you know what I mean.
That's too bad. Not that I'm a Vista booster. I'm not. But Vista is not all bad, by any means, my objections notwithstanding. It will serve a lot of users very well. Probably the vast majority of users, when you get right down to it.
A few days ago, I got a call from a friend. His aunt needed to buy a new computer. The old one died. We chatted for a while about just how to recover her address book and data (something my friend is quite capable of doing but he wanted confirmation of his plan's utility and efficacy). Then we talked about just what she needs from a computer.
She is a heavy email user, participates almost continuously in several IRC chat rooms centered on her various interests, surfs a lot, prints a lot of color photos along with black and white documents in volume. For this she has two printers. A color ink jet and a monochrome laser, along with a standalone scanner. She uses Vonage for most of her phone calls and she plays Sudoku on the machine.
A quick check showed Vista drivers for both printers and the scanner were available. Her display was also supported. As she was already using a simple memory card reader for transferring her photos from her camera to the computer, that was no problem at all. A quick proposal was put together centering on an HP computer equipped with Vista.
Her reaction was swift and definitive; "Don't give me that Vista thing!".
A bit of discussion revealed that she has both read and been told about just how bad Vista is. She had a lot of objections at hand, ready to go. She had been told that Vista was going to prevent her copying images, regardless of their origin. And that Vista would not support her games, scanner or printers. Plus, she had been informed that she would have to learn everything about using her computer all over again.
With such ingrained opposition, the easy course would be to simply purchase a computer equipped with Windows XP, or transfer her to a Mac. (There is no way she would go with Linux.) Instead, her nephew, my friend, simply lent her a laptop with Vista installed. We set her up a user account, installed her games and the appropriate drivers. Only the scanner required a download. The rest were already part of Vista. And we put all her data on it, as well.
A few days use turned her into a Vista enthusiast. The clincher was probably something others won't experience in comparison to their XP machines; greater stability. Her XP computer was never all that stable and would crash on occasion. (My friend and I worked on this and in the end attributed the problems to hardware, rather than the operating system or software. The machine would crash occasionally running a Linux live CD, too.) The Vista laptop, and indeed her new computer, both with Home Premium installed, are more stable than her XP machine was.
So she was converted. The new machine was duly installed and she is very, very happy with it. And features we never thought to point out to her because we take them for granted, like the USB and audio ports on the front of the machine, delight her, as well. It really is a nice computer with it's Core Duo processor and plenty of system memory (2 GB).
But Vista labors under it's bad reputation, partly undeserved though it is, and will for all it's life. For some users, Vista really is not a good thing. For others, meaning almost all users, it is completely adequate and, indeed, just what is needed. I think this applies to it's heightened security functions, more than anything else. One can argue just how secure Vista is, but there is no doubt at all it is more secure than it's predecessor.
Writers and other commentators still pile it on, though. Not just in the tech press, either. The criticism makes it into mainstream news, too. Vista is bad in this way. Vista is bad in some other way. It seems to never end. Frankly, I don't think Vista can recover. Given that, I wonder if the best thing Microsoft can do is to simply move on and bring out a demonstrably new operating system as soon as humanly possible. One with a new and clean reputation.