Windows is dead; long live Windows

Windows XP, the current dominant operating system, has met its successor. Vista will launch its bid to conquer PCs worldwide under the Microsoft banner starting on January 30. Millions of XP users will supposedly be convinced to make the switch.
That may be more difficult than advertised, since there are few compelling reasons for an immediate changeover.

For starters, XP users can already download free versions of many of Vista’s new programs and functions. Perhaps even more importantly, new operating systems invariably contain bugs that are only ironed out with time.

“People making the switch should wait a few months until the initial flaws have been removed,” advises computer expert Peter Knaak from the German consumer testing organisation Stiftung Warentest in Berlin.

Axel Vahldiek from the Hanover-based c’t computer magazine also sees no strong justification for an immediate switch to Vista. He emphasises, however, that Microsoft has made significant strides in security with its new system. For those users determined to make the switch to Vista, he recommends first figuring out which of the different Vista variations is the right one.

Consumers should know, for example, that Home Basic is the most affordable version, available for upgrade at prices starting from $119 (about R850) and in a full version for $229 (about R1 630). That version does not include the new Aero user interface, however. The version comparable with the Home Edition of Windows XP is instead Vista Home Premium.

That is available for $199 (about R1 420) or $299 (R2 130) respectively. Aero is part of Home Premium, but hard-drive encryption is not. The latter is offered to buyers in the Ultimate version, which in fact offers the full Vista functionality. The price is also a bit of an ultimatum: $329 (R2 345) or $499 (R3 560) respectively to bring it home.

Users must already own at least Windows 2000 to qualify for an upgrade to Vista, says Microsoft product manager Vanessa Weihbrecht. Axel Vahldiek notes that there are other restrictions as well. Upgrades to Home Premium are only available for those who previously had XP Home.

Those reliant on older applications should also inform themselves beforehand. Microsoft claims that Vista will run all programs developed in 1995 or later. Tests by c’t showed, however, that Microsoft’s Office 97 office suite would not run problem-free.

“Most applications run, though,” Vahldiek says.

Three-dimensional games are an exception. As specific graphic-card drivers still are not available, some titles will not initially run on Vista. One can presume that graphic-card makers will be releasing the drivers in question soon.

Vista buyers won’t be able to enjoy the experience in full without a strong graphic card. A model with 64 megabytes of RAM is the minimum, Vanessa Weihbrecht reports—and 128 megabytes is preferable.

“Otherwise you need to work with the classic view,” says Vahldiek. The easiest way to assure that hardware and the Vista operating system will work together is to buy a computer with the operating system pre-installed. That may be the most affordable solution as well.—Sapa-dpa

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