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Both system builders and their clients are the continual targets of marketing schemes aimed at driving sales of new technologies, products and services. This year the biggest campaign involves Microsoft's introduction of Windows Vista. Some system builders did not require much convincing to switch from Windows XP to the newer OS. But this system builder is not yet ready to change.
What harm can there possibly be in selling the latest and greatest in PC technology to your customers? Plenty.
It has been my experience that no Windows OS is ready for prime time until the official release of at least Service Pack 1. Vista is a case in point: Straight out of the box, and not long after the day of release, Vista required no fewer than 10 updates from Microsoft's Web site.
Today, if a system builder updates clients' systems with Vista, they will need to check every application and hardware device installed in the customer's machine for compatibility. The system builder will then need to update these apps and devices as necessary. Device drivers will have to be found, downloaded and installed manually.
As a result, a large-scale roll-out of Vista systems by a small system builder—especially if attempted without adequate planning—could be a profit-eating monster. Not just once, but repeatedly over time as new issues are potentially uncovered by customers' usage habits.
Today, I am recommending that my customers stay with Windows XP Professional, using the recently released Service Pack 2b. For those who do, I offer a free upgrade coupon to Windows Vista that they can use later. These coupons, by the way, are available through authorized distribution channels.
This wait-and-see approach offers the customer peace of mind: Their current XP system is reliable and compatible with all of the latest hardware and software offerings, and they can upgrade to Vista when both they and Microsoft are ready. This approach also buys critical time for the system builder. He can wait until Microsoft prepares the necessary Vista updates, and until other hardware and software manufacturers release verified, Vista-compatible updates of their products.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Ever since Windows and Windows NT co-existed in the market back in the early 1990s, Microsoft foreshadowed its great move to integrate the code base and create a unified version of Windows. Like Rome, this could not be built in a day. Rather, it evolved over years. Slowly, the differences between the "home" and "business" editions diminished--under the hood, anyway. It began with Windows 2000 Professional and was fine-tuned with Windows XP. Now, with Vista, we have the ideal vision of the Windows OS according to Microsoft.
There are two big disadvantages to this approach, however. One, the cost of the OS is much higher than before. Two, the new OS requires much higher-caliber hardware to run it smoothly.
This phenomenon is further complicated because it is taking place during the industry's transition from a 32-bit computing architecture to a 64-bit computing architecture. As a result of this transition, both CPU hardware and application software are currently in a state of change. The introduction of a totally new OS in the midst of all this has forced both system builders and users to contend with a veritable minefield of hardware and software incompatibilities.
The net effect of all this is much more than a mere annoyance. Rather, it is having a profound impact on both the system-builder business and the satisfaction of system builders' customers.
Now that I've made my case, let's examine the evidence. I believe the facts are compelling.
THE TRUE COSTS OF VISTA
To Microsoft's credit, the company has tried to hold down the cost of Vista. Unfortunately, the way Microsoft has done this has created confusion.
Microsoft set out to let customers purchase only the Vista features they need, and to avoid paying for features they don't need or want. To this end, Microsoft created four different versions of the OS, each with its own 64-bit variant.
While that plan may look good on paper, it has some shortcomings. First, the entry-level product, Vista Home Basic Edition, has had so many features stripped from it to keep the price down, that it is (in my opinion) not worth buying.
The next level up in the hierarchy, Vista Home Premium Edition, has an suggested retail price that is 20% higher than the price of Windows XP Home Edition.
At the high end of the scale, Vista Ultimate Edition creates the ultimate sticker shock. Its price is 30% to 40% higher than Windows XP Professional.
To be fair, Microsoft did hold the price line on Vista Business. It has a suggested retail price of $299, which is the same as the suggested price for XP Professional.
In the following table, I compare the suggested retail prices for Windows Vista, XP, Millennium, and 98 versions:
|VERSION||SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE|
|Vista Home Premium||$239|
|Vista Home Basic||$199|