Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vista will be late. Who cares?

Microsoft has reported that the next version of Windows -- Vista -- will not be available for the Christmas season as planned. It's been delayed until January 2007 (at least).

The burning question is, who cares? Barring security, nothing exciting has happened on the Windows operating system front for years. In a business sense, there's nothing that you can't inherently do with XP that you couldn't do with Windows 97. There was no compelling reason to move from Win98 to Win2000, as lack of backward compatibility was a major issue. Backward compatibility and increased security were the compelling reasons to move from the Win98 to XP. Since Vista will require yet another round of hardware upgrades, what's the compelling reason Microsoft offers to justify the expense? Absolutely none.

It's the same on the browser and application software fronts. There is simply no compelling reason to wait on pins and needles for a new MSIE when Firefox already fills the niche. And Microsoft Office hasn't had a worthwhile upgrade since 1997.

On the other hand, there are some exciting things happening on the Open Source front.

Linux has never been better. For those who want something even easier to use than Windows I'd heartily recommend Linspire. Ubuntu is lovely, and completely cost-free, as are many Linux distrubutions. Just pick out one you like on DistroWatch and either download it or pay a miniscule copying fee to get it on CD. Try one of the boot from CD versions like Ubuntu. You don't even have to install it to check it out and see for yourself that all of the "Linux is hard to use" tales you hear are simply not true.

OpenOffice.org is now at version 2.0. This turns out to be a solid alternative to Microsoft Office at zero cost. This isn't a cut-down half-delivered office suite, either... it includes a solid database, word processor, spreadsheet, vector drawing app and equation editor, and presentation software similar to PowerPoint. The only thing I find myself wishing for in OpenOffice is a better collection of shape templates in the drawing tool to compete with the likes of Visio. (Currently I use SmartDraw to fill the nice, and export the drawings to Windows Metafile for cross-application compatibility.)

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