Vista still plagued by incompatibilities

Nine months since its release, lots of hardware and software products still don't work with Microsoft's operating system, including some that are certified as Vista compatible.

When 'certified' isn't

And sometimes, as with Brother's multifunction printer, even products that are advertised as compatible with Vista just aren't. Microsoft includes Corel's video editing software Ulead VideoStudio 10 on its list of products that are "Certified for Windows Vista." The "Certified for Vista" designation is supposed to mean that the software or hardware has been tested and is 100 percent compatible with the OS.

However, Corel's support page for Ulead VideoStudio 10 outlines some advanced features that work only with XP. The company states on its site, though, that VideoStudio does qualify for the "Works with Windows Vista" designation. In marketing doublespeak, "Works with Windows Vista" means that a product isn't 100 percent compatible but may work well enough to meet your needs.

Don't blame Microsoft?

Ben Reed, product marketing manager for the Windows Vista Logo Program, says that Microsoft has worked more extensively with its hardware and software partners on ensuring Vista compatibility than it did with Windows XP. He says that over 7000 products have been certified to work with Windows Vista or have been given the "Works with Vista" logo. He points out that in May, the PD Group stated that 48 out of the top 50 consumer applications work with Vista.

Nevertheless, the compatibility problems are apparently fueling a reluctance among consumers to upgrade to Vista. This comment to PC World's community forums from user stealth694 is not unique: "Compatibility is the main problem [with Vista]. Just how compatible is Vista with Windows XP and Windows 2000 programs? Personally I am sticking with XP for at least another year to two years [to] see what happens. Vista has an aroma like [Windows] ME, and I am not interested in getting sick again."

But many software experts say consumers shouldn't be angry with Microsoft. "Microsoft did its best under incredibly difficult circumstances with Vista," says Stephen Baker, analyst with the NPD Group. "If you're going to spread blame for Vista headaches, there is enough to spread around the entire computer industry," Baker adds.

If you're considering upgrading to Vista, you should maintain a healthy amount of skepticism about the prospects of your current hardware or software continuing to work properly. Before you upgrade, study the support pages of the products you depend on, or search the Web for the name of your product and "Vista compatibility." Otherwise, your upgrade may end up feeling more like a downgrade.

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