Microsoft says 2,700 programs are certified as usable with Vista. This is about 15 percent of the number of native Mac programs available for Mac OS X.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Should we give Vista a 2nd chance?

August 3, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   Microsoft is fighting back. After struggling with a negative public perception over its new version of Windows, Microsoft is launching an advertising campaign to win back the hearts and minds of PC users.
   Microsoft is spending $300 million on the new ads, on the Web and in print.
   "We know our story is very different from what our competitors want us to think," said Brad Brooks, the company's corporate vice president for Windows Consumer Product Marketing. His comment was directed at Apple, the company's primary competitor, which has been sniping away at Vista in its Mac vs. PC ads.
   "We are drawing a line and are going to start telling the real story. The quiet majority of millions and millions of Windows Vista users out there are going to have a great experience," Brooks said. "The message is 'Move to Vista. The time of worry is over.'"
   The first sign of the new advertising push appeared on Microsoft's main Web page. It showed a 15th Century sailing ship with a headline that said, "At one point, everyone thought the Earth was flat." The only other text was a link to a Vista advertisement that listed what Microsoft claimed were the advantages of Vista.
   The ship picture disappeared within a day -- no one knows why, but I'm guessing that top Microsoft executives didn't like it -- but the Vista claims site should still be available. It's at www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/discover/why-now.aspx.
   Unfortunately, among the claims is a statement that Microsoft has sold 140 million copies of Vista -- a total that counts copies sold to PC makers and stores but not yet bought by consumers.
   Also listed are the number of printer models now supported in Vista, which Microsoft says is 77,000, and the number of Windows programs that are now "certified" to work with Vista, which Microsoft lists as 2,700. (This is about 15 percent of the number of native Mac programs available for Mac OS X, so the boast seems odd.)
   Public relations is sometimes an attempt to get everyone to forget the past, as we can see from this claim on the page: "People who are familiar with Windows Vista are two to three times more likely to have a favorable impression." The problems with Vista, however, extend beyond impressions, and include confusion over the many versions of Vista, the overall cost of upgrading, exasperatingly designed security reminders, interface oddities, digital rights annoyances and the need for a very fast PC with a lot of memory -- two things that prevent many Windows XP users from upgrading.
   Vista took seven years to come to market and was five years late. An online petition signed by a quarter of a million Windows XP users embarrassed Microsoft's market planners and forced some PC makers to continue to sell new PCs with XP installed instead of Vista.
   Apple's Mac vs. PC ads might have convinced many defections from Windows users thinking of upgrading to Vista. Apple's computer sales rose 38 percent in the second quarter of 2008, according to Gartner Research, boosting it to third place in U.S. computer sales. (Dell and Hewlett Packard are in first and second place, respectively.)
   As a Windows XP user as well as a Mac user, I've resisted the move to Vista so far. XP is stable and easy to use, and Vista offers no improvements in those two vital areas. Security is a big problem with both versions of Windows, which is one reason I prefer Mac OS X for most of my personal computing. And Microsoft has undercut its own ad claims for Vista by promoting what it calls "Windows 7," the successor to Vista, in its discussions with technology experts.
   The message seems clear: If you want a better version of Windows, wait for Windows 7. It's many years away, however.
   So my take on Microsoft's attempt to polish the Vista image is that PR can only go so far. XP will do for now. And for those who want to get away from Windows entirely, Apple offers an excellent alternative.