Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Fat Lady Can Sing?

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Being fair minded while discussing Microsoft is difficult for me considering the illegal activities their management has engaged in, and have been convicted for, in both U.S. and International Courts, over the years. But, I do try hard to be as open-minded as I possibly can when talking about their software.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk to you about Vista and all the hype that has been blowing around on the wind. It is confusing, conflicting, and in some cases, just too hard to believe!

On the one hand, you hear Microsoft touting the virtues of Vista as the Best OS since sliced bread! The jury is still out on that, of course, but there is strong evidence that it is not, under the hood. Yes, it does have a pleasing look to it with the Areo Desktop, but XP can be made to look the same way! Linux distributions have, for years, had several different desktops that could, with a little configuring, look as good, if not better, than Vista’s best, and with more useful features, too.

Performance is another area that Microsoft has been pushing. “Vista is faster!” as the advertisements say. When you examine the criteria used, however, you start seeing a few things that seem to skew the results a bit. For example in a trial between XP and Vista, the Vista machine was configured to optimize for speed doing whatever the test is trying to prove (downloading, file access, etc.) while the XP system was not, and even then, the timings that I have seen are in the range of less than a few milliseconds. Not enough to make a real difference, but enough for the claim. If the test was completely fair, the XP system would show to be the quicker.

One area that shows more dramatic results is downloading ‘races’ between Windows and Linux. Downloading a large file on windows you might see speeds of 50 to 100 KBS which isn’t bad at all. BUT, downloading the same file, even on a slower processor, on Linux can yield speeds in excess of 500KBS, using the same Internet connection! Hmmm… I think it’s obvious who won THAT race, don’t you?

Other things, however, aren’t so easily compared. One of those, DRM, offers no advantage to the users at all. DRM controls what you can watch or hear on your PC. If you have a favorite movie you watch from time to time, you may not be able to much longer. DRM will not allow it! DRM is designed, and implemented, strictly for the benefit of Microsoft and the Recording and Movie Industry. Forget about downloaded music or movies via peer-to-peer methods, it can’t be shared. Not that I totally support P2P but I still consider DRM an encroachment on my right of ownership. If I bought my copy of whatever from a ‘legit’ dealer or retailer, I expect to be able to play it wherever I wish. But, now I will need to pay a ‘licensing fee’ to use my computer to play it. Who gets paid? Microsoft, who then shares the fee with the product producers (or will they?).

If you listen to the ‘market speak’ from Microsoft, Vista is sweeping the world and selling like crazy, but if you pay attention to what is being said to stock analysts by Microsoft, the words are ‘…not as strong as predicted’ and ‘…softer market than expected’ (Mar 12 issue of InformationWeek). With Government agencies stepping back both in the U.S. and abroad and with large businesses saying ‘2008 before implementation’, Microsoft has a serious problem on its hands. Oh, they are still on their marketing soap box pushing Vista, but there is another refrain being stated more quietly that the consumer won’t hear unless they are paying attention to ‘the man behind the curtain’ and not the bad magician waving his hands.

Like the Carney Barker says, “It ain’t over until the Fat Lady Sings!” Stick around for the show!