Vista SP1: Things to fix in tomorrow's service pack

vistasp1Joe Wilcox has an article over on Microsoft Watch called “10 Things I Warned Microsoft About Windows Vista” wherein he details some of the advice he gave to Microsoft executives back when Vista was in development.

Some of the points are moot now that Vista’s been released like “Vista will miss the big PC upgrade cycle, call Vista Basic ‘Windows Basic’ instead, One Vista version is enough,” and so on but a few of the points really, really need to be addressed with tomorrow’s service pack.

Those points include the following…

1. Windows Vista has to be a whole lot better than Windows XP. Microsoft had left XP in the market for a long time. That version of Windows had reached a certain ‘good enough’ threshold, in part because of the stable, supporting ecosystem. Vista would have to be a whole lot better to drive upgrades in established markets. I received assurances that Vista would deliver on the promise, which was later accentuated in the “Wow” marketing. What happened: Vista wasn’t better enough.”

This is a huge problem, in my opinion. My experience with Vista compared to XP is that it’s slow, awkward, and too much stuff isn’t where it used to be or has been renamed. New features are great, yes, but doing things like renaming Add/Remove Programs to Programs and Features — why? Just leave it alone.

I was thinking about what I’d miss if I downgraded to XP and one of the only Vista features I find helpful has been the “folder merge” feature, where if you drag a folder into another folder containing most of the same files, it’ll merge the two together. That’s a cool feature but it’s not enough to overcome all the other shortcomings like…

8. Vista demands too much. From my earliest product briefings, Microsoft executives carted around big honking laptops—luggables—to get enough processing and graphics power to run early Vista builds. I was told Vista would need less power closer to release. Nope. I got my first Vista test system in February 2006. WEI: 2.0, on above-average hardware. What happened: OEMs shipped computers underpowered for Vista, even through holiday 2007. The operating system demands too much from even modestly older hardware.”

I have a 2.2GHz dual-core notebook with 2GB of RAM and a dedicated GeForce 8400M GS graphics card with 256MB of memory and Vista just runs “okay” on it. I had to turn the Aero interface off, though, and I can’t get too many programs running at once without things slowing down considerably. The dock is also a no-go. Conversely, I have a second partition with Ubuntu Linux on it and it screams. It’s way faster.

Vista needs to run faster on all hardware, from low-end to high-end. That’s the biggest thing I’ll be looking for tomorrow; how much faster does my computer run? My Windows Experience Index is a 3.5 out of a possible 5.9, with my score being dragged down by my graphics card. Apparently a 256MB GeForce card is only somewhat suited to run the Aero interface. I haven’t missed it since turning it off, though.

10. Vista security features increase complexity, decrease usability. Oh, I was a loud critic of UAC (User Account Control) and Internet Explorer warnings. I argued that Microsoft had made Vista much harder to use than Windows XP. The experience would be worse for many users. Going back to #1, Vista had to be a lot better, not perceptually worse. What happened: UAC warnings hurt usability but caused more troubles; new user rights mechanism broke many applications.”

The User Account Control “feature” is very likely one of the first things that people turn off. When Service Pack 2 for Windows XP was released, the wireless network and Bluetooth areas both received a nice overhaul. Hopefully something like that’s planned for User Account Control. I’ll take speed improvements first, though.

I distinctly remember that the first service pack for Windows XP improved the operating system somewhat but it wasn’t until the second service pack when XP really began to shine. How wonderful it would be if the first Vista service pack had the same effect as the second XP service pack?

I think it’d really go a long way in many users’ eyes. I’d be thrilled to see a drastic and marked improvement where speed and stability are concerned and I hope that Microsoft’s spent the most amount of time trying to improve those areas. You can add all the features and security patches you want but if the OS itself is constantly putt-putt-putting along with the random crash here and there, it won’t make any difference.

Other points from Wilcox’ article not necessarily related to SP1 can be found in the original article at the link below.

10 Things I Warned Microsoft About Windows Vista [Microsoft Watch]