Windows Vista's half-term report: must try harder

Microsoft's middle-aged OS

Hard to believe, but Vista is nearly half-way through its life as Microsoft's top dog.

If the Redmond Mafia's Windows 7 launch plans come to pass (stop sniggering at the back), June 2008 will be Vista's zenith: 18 months after hit-and-missta limped on to the stage, it will be 18 months from obselence.

What to make of Vista?

It has, after all, inspired predictable groans about incompatibilities, and deeper gloom about resource gluttony. But having used Vista for a while, and tweaked it to tone down the foot-dragging bells and whistles, I like it.

There, I've said it.

Nonetheless, halfway up the hill, Vista isn't nearly as secure as it ought to be. Prior to launch we were told that User Access Control (UAC) was going to be the silver bullet for PC security. Then, when users switched off the nagging net nanny in their droves, Microsoft said that actually, UAC was meant to act as a prompt to software manufacturers to up their game. Latterly, the software giant fessed up that UAC hadn't worked out but, you know, Windows 7 will be a belter. No really.

Well, okay, but there's a body of evidence that suggests that Vista is, despite the popular, Microsoft-led view, no more secure than XP. PC Tools, for instance, recently revealed that when it scanned its 1.4 million-strong PC userbase, it found two thirds the number of threats on Vista PCs as it did on XP machines - an older, much bigger target. Malware follows market share, so Vista is currently protected by the 'Mac defence' ("don't hurt me, I'm little"). Not for long. PC Tools has already encountered more than 6,000 instances of the Zlob Trojan worming its way into Vista PCs.

So what? An OS isn't a security suite. But Microsoft told us Vista was a panacea. And Vista Security Center propagates the myth that no third-party protection is required.

Nonsense. Big green ticks are lovely, but it'll be a long time before I rely on Windows Defender to beat spyware, for instance.

Recently, Microsoft promised that we'll hear little about Windows 7 on its way to market. A smooth move. If Vista's half-term report reveals anything, it's that the pupil promises much, but must try harder.

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Matt Egan

PC Advisor (UK)
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