Why people hate Vista

Where does all the vitriol come from?

The further the better

The Englewood (N.J.) Hospital Medical Center switched to Vista shortly after its enterprise release, since it had been in Microsoft's early adopter program. Most users -- mainly nurses and other medical staff -- didn't really notice the upgrade and had few complaints, noted Gary Wilhelm, the business and systems financial manager (a combination of CTO and CFO) at the 2,500-employee facility. That's because they don't really use the OS, but instead work directly in familiar applications that load when they sign in using their ID.

Capacitor manufacturer Kemet saw a similar ho-hum reaction from most of its staff, says Jeff Padgett, the global infrastructure manager. And for the same reason: Users have little direct interaction with the OS. But the staff did push back on Office 2007, whose ribbon interface is a departure from the previous versions. They rebelled to the degree that Padgett has delayed Office 2007 deployment and may not install it at all.

Back at the Englewood hospital, Wilhelm did hear anti-Vista grumbling from people in the administration department, who work more closely with the OS itself for file management and so on. And at Kemet, another group of hands-on users complained about the switch to Vista, noted Padgett: "The people who suffered the most were engineers and IT people."

The phenomenon of hands-on users being the most resistant explains why so many small-business users and consultants have reacted so strongly against Vista, noted Gartner's Silver.

Conversely, those enamored of the latest technology tend to be Vista enthusiasts, said David Fritzke, IT director at the YMCA Milwaukee, which has been adding Vista to its workforce as it buys new computers. "Some users bought Vista for home and then wanted it more quickly at work than we had initially planned to deploy it," he said. Fritzke also found that younger users adapted to Vista more easily.

In search of ROI

Users' personal reactions, positive or negative, ultimately impact the bottom line and help drive the business decision of whether to roll out Vista across an organization.

It's all about basic cost-benefit analysis, says Gartner's Silver. In most businesses, Vista offers few compelling advantages for users while introducing challenges. The cost of change is too high for the perceived benefit. For example, users often complain about Vista's constant nagging about possible system threats, about applications that no longer run, or about files that appear to be "lost" because they've been moved to new places by the OS, Silver said.

"It's really hard to convince someone to go to a product that's not quite as stable or as capable as what they're already using," Silver noted -- and so they get frustrated and angry. While IT managers and analysts appreciate some under-the-hood changes in Vista, these improvements don't have an immediate, obvious benefit for users. "Vista's benefits are not about the users," concurred Collegiate Housing Services' Evans.

Upgrades from Microsoft's past have also colored expectations, Silver said. Users tend to remember the straightforward transition from Windows 2000 to XP, even though technically it was a "minor" upgrade, he said. (Silver also noted that until XP Service Pack 2, XP had its own share of compatibility and security flaws that annoyed users, something that most forgot with SP2's release.)

And while the path from Windows 95 and 98 to Windows XP was rockier, the benefits were clear enough at each stage for most customers to make the upgrade investment gladly, Silver said.

Some users have decided to skip Vista altogether and instead wait for Windows 7, whose release date has been reported as anywhere between 2009 and 2011 "Why shoot yourself in the foot twice? Windows 7 will be out next year; I'll wait till then," said one InfoWorld reader. If Windows 7 arrives sooner rather than later -- or if a miraculous Vista service pack addresses all the major objections in one swoop -- then the uproar over upgrading to Vista will quickly fade into the hazy past of other Windows upgrade snafus.

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