Partners are annoyed by the abundance of software and hardware incompatibilities surfacing as Windows Vista is deployed to more early adopters.
The Redmond, Wash., software giant launched Vista and a companion update called Windows Vista Application Compatibility Update to the market on Jan 30.
That update, KB929427, handles some of the more problematic application incompatibilities, but the nightmare is far from over, partners say.
It's typical for these conflicts to appear shortly after an operating system is released. The big problem with Vista is not only the number of incompatibilities with existing applications but also the lack of drivers for critical hardware components and hardware peripherals, partners say.
One partner said he is surprised by the lack of Vista drivers available for basic hardware components that keep a PC running.
"Customers upgrading Vista in place may find getting support for existing hardware very challenging," said Phil Aldrich, North American Microsoft Practice Manager for Dimension Data North America, a $3.1 billion solution provider.
"Tons of vendors haven't done Vista drivers and that's left a big hole in support. I can understand when it comes to printers and scanners, but when we're talking about hard drives, chipset controllers and video cards, things that run the PC, it's surprising," he said. "It's not just peripherals but primary component manufacturers aren't ready, and that unusual compared to the previous releases [of Windows]."
According to various solution providers contacted by CRN, here are the 10 biggest problems faced by early adopters of Vista out of the gate:
1. Lack of available drivers from ISVs causing application conflicts;
2. Lack of available drivers for existing and new peripherals and hardware components;
3. Buggy drivers;
4. New security feature often flags existing applications as suspicious and interrupts service;
5. Few applications aside from Vista and Office 2007 take advantage of user account control;
6. Customers are confused by Office 2007's ribbon-like user interface;
8. Benefits of Vista and Office 2007 running together are not obvious. Partners and IT staff need training for maximum ROI;
9. Deployment isn't easy. Partners should use either Business Desktop Deployment tool, "lite" BDD no-charge tool or other tools;
10. Hardware doesn't run Windows Vista well.
Some speculate hardware and software manufacturers have invested little in updating their current products because they expect most customers will buy a new — and associated products — to run Vista.
Aldrich maintains, however, that many installed PCs are properly equipped to handle Vista and Office 2007 and the idea that customers must buy new PCs is a myth.
Partners and IT pros are also facing problems with peripherals.
"There's not enough drivers out there. Peripherals manufacturers are not all up to speed with Vista, so be careful what you buy," said Anthony Rodio, chief marketing officer at Supportsoft, a Redwood City, Calif., partner that provides helpdesk support for Windows Vista to enterprises and consumers. "People want to use the functionality in Vista and there are some multimedia, video and sound devices that support Vista, but many peripherals have to catch up."
He noted, for example, that Microsoft's own recently released Zune is not Vista compatible. And he added that one of his technicians recently bought an up-to-date webcam for Windows Vista and it didn't work.
The lack of available Vista drivers for existing software applications is a nightmare, partners say. They don't understand why Microsoft and its ISVs have dragged their feet for so long in developing drivers for existing applications.
The Windows Vista Application Compatibility Update is a package of updates released on Jan. 30 that fixes application compatibility issues with applications like Adobe Photoshop, AVG AntiSpyware, Google Desktop 4 and Roxio Easy Media Creator 7.,5.
But that Vista patch introduced problems with another version of Roxio one partner is using. He reported it to Microsoft but it hasn't been resolved yet.
"So many things just don't work and won't ever work and that's the problem," said Brian Bergin, president of Terabyte Computer, Boone, N.C. "Smartphones, fingerprint scanners, video drivers and both ATI and nVidia's [cards] are questionable at best, not to mention [that] many business applications don't work. Microsoft did such a horrible job of working with vendors on legacy XP-Windows 2000 application-hardware compatibility that everything is up in the air."
One of the beauties of Vista is the added security, but in order to use it, you must have updated hardware and drivers for applications," said Aldrich. "And none of the large ISVs have done it."
New security features in Vista are compounding the incompatibility issues, Supportsoft's Rodio said.
"Windows security is nice, but it may interrupt some existing applications you are running, like a travel service or something that Microsoft flags as spyware and interrupts," Rodio added. "It will likely disrupt stuff you've done in the past."
Incompatibilities dominate the list of most common complaints registered against Windows Vista since it shipped on Jan. 30, say several partners who support consumers and SMB and enterprise customers.
Many ISVs have pledged to release Vista drivers in the second half of 2007 but partners should expect a flood of support calls for customers who deploy this year, experts say.
Paul DeGroot, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a newsletter in Kirkland, Wash., said it's not surprising to him that hardware manufacturers are not investing in new Vista drivers for older hardware.
Although some maintain that Vista runs happily on a Pentium 4 with at least 512 megabytes of RAM, he and others expect most customers will migrate to Vista through new PC purchases.
"I'm guessing that most of the hardware manufacturers will initially ship drivers for Vista only for new products that they're shipping about now because there wasn't demand in the marketplace for Vista drivers. In addition, Vista will be heavily related to OEM sales, and the OEMs may be selling compatible accessories with new PCs, so the aftermarket business will see less Vista-specific traffic.