About a year ago, I got a new computer at work and it had Windows Vista loaded on it. We got rid of it and went back to good old XP after about two days.
Honestly, however, our ordeal in dealing with Vista really was OK for reasons I'll get into here in bit. For now, however, let me explain exactly what kinds of troubles we had with Vista.
The biggest objection, of course, is that it just wouldn't run any of the software that is critical to what we in the office. Vista just plain wouldn't work with a lot of those programs that ran just fine under XP. Our smiling tech guy fought with Vista for a couple of days and set about writing workarounds and everything else to force my computer to work.
It was all no good, of course. Stubborn Vista just wouldn't cooperate. Now, our offices are on the third floor of our building and mine overlooks Interstate 430 in scenic Little Rock, Ark. The technology cat and I were trying to decide if we could hurl my laptop all the way to I-430 when he had an epiphany -- why not just strip Vista off and put XP back on my system?
Getting XP back on the system was a chore as a lot of computers now are made to work specifically with Vista. That means finding XP-compatible software drivers can be a hit and miss proposition -- the soundcard, for example, has some weird driver written in Spanish for some reason. It was a hassle to get XP running on my new laptop, but it eventually worked.
But, honestly, that's all OK and I've come to regard Vista as one of the most significant software releases from Microsoft. Why? It's because of the way people are reacting to it that is impressive. It appears that Microsoft may be on the verge of falling to the same types of pressures that allowed it to become so dominant years ago.
Let me explain what I mean.
A bit of history
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, having the right hardware was everything. If you wanted, say, VisiCalc, you had to buy an Apple 2. If you wanted the widest variety of business-related programs available, you might opt for a Z-80 based system running the CP/M operating system. You had the Commodore, Apple and Atari computers essentially slugging it out in the game market, and let's not forget smaller companies like Tandy that had huge followings, either.
Then, IBM came along in 1981 and released the Personal Computer (PC) that simply dominated the hardware market after a couple of years. The operating system was retained by Microsoft and the company started selling it to other computer manufcaturers, thus ending the days when selling the most hardware was the most important thing.
That brings us up to today where Microsoft is dominant because the company has the most widely used operating system. There are some indications that we may be looking at a welcome paradigm shift in having the dominant operating system doesn't matter as much as it does right now.
What the hell are you talking about, Hawg?
Getting back to my Vista story, it turns out that I wasn't the only one struggling with the operating system. I work for the Arkansas Realtors Association, and one of the things we do is sell software to Realtors around the state. That software is what Realtors use to get the forms and contracts necessary to selling real estate.
The problem with that software is that it's not Vista compatible. Yes, there are a few workarounds and such that will get it to work, but unless you've got Windows XP, Windows ME or Windows 98, the chances are good that you'll have trouble with the forms software. The theory here, of course, is that we are committed to supporting the most popular operating systems -- if you've got Vista, you're an odd duck just like those people who swear by Macintosh or Linux. Sad but true.
Instead of working on a Vista version of the software, our technology cat contracted with a company that will provide an Internet-based version of the stuff that isn't doesn't rely on specific operating systems. Got Vista? It'll work. How about a Macintosh or one of those freaky Linux machines? You're covered If you can get on the Internet, you can run the forms software.
That's a significant change, indeed. We've never bothered with supporting Macintosh and Linux before, and I've noticed that a lot of companies are putting out applications the same way. One of the things that has kept Windows dominant is that the company has the operating system necessary to run the bulk of the desirable applications out there. God knows Windows hasn't become a giant because it releases quality, trouble-free products. The company is a pain in the back (my daughter's phrase -- feel free to use it) to deal with, but it's been a necessary evil due to the applications that run under Windows.
Really, it's about time that change was in the air. Hopefully, the ability to deliver applications over the Internet will result in a lot more freedom in choosing what type of operating system to purchase. Frankly, I miss my journalism days when I had a Macintosh...