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Windows Vista at Six Months

Today is a notable day in the tech business. Six months ago, Windows Vista arrived in stores after years of development.

From here, it doesn't look like it's been a great half-year for Microsoft. Vista hasn't provided any serious boost to the PC market, the Gartner Group reported in late June. In a press release, Gartner analyst George Shiffler said, "Our market data suggests Vista has had very limited impact on PC demand or replacement activity. We don't see Vista having a significant effect on these going forward unless Microsoft becomes much more aggressive in its marketing efforts." In April, Dell even began allowing customers to choose between Windows XP and Vista on some machines.

Since I reviewed Vista in January, I've continued to try it out on a few different machines -- an HP desktop, a Dell laptop (since returned to the Post's IT department) and a virtual machine inside Parallels Desktop on an iMac. That ongoing testing, as well as your e-mails, Web-chat postings and blog comments, has helped to lower my opinion of Vista, thanks to a few problems I keep running into:

* Lockouts of the computer caused by Vista's strict piracy-prevention routines, which have, on rare occasions, snagged law-abiding users.

* Software or hardware that doesn't work in Vista (though much of the blame has to go to companies that somehow didn't think to check their products for Vista compatibility during one of the longest public beta tests in the history of commercial software -- I'm talking about you, Palm).

* Seemingly obvious bugs that somehow escaped Microsoft's scrutiny.

* This operating system's ravenous appetite for memory, especially apparent when I switch between Vista and XP installations inside Parallels.

* My number-one gripe about Vista: the way its User Account Control security system, which doesn't let a program install itself unless you grant permission, sometimes takes an inexplicably long time to pop up its continue-or-cancel dialog. I've waited as long as five minutes, but a few times I never even got that far: Vista produced a bizarre, Windows 3.1-esque error alert about an excessive number of 16-bit processes. (I wish I'd thought to get a screen capture of this nutjob alert.)

On the other hand, the new Aero graphics still count as a plus, even if the Flip 3D application-switching effect is no match for Mac OS X's Expose. The built-in search is light-years past what XP provides, and the new Windows Explorer file-browsing interface is also a big upgrade over Vista's predecessors.

Back when I tried out a beta-test version of Vista last summer, I hoped that the finished product would represent a dramatic break from the more annoying aspects of Windows. That doesn't look like it's going to be possible.

If you've made the switch to Vista over the last half year, tell me how it's gone. What's been the most pleasant surprise about the new operating system? What's been the nastiest shock?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 30, 2007; 9:08 AM ET
Categories:  Windows  
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