A requiem for Windows XP

We remember the pros, and a few cons, of the most popular version of Windows to date

Steve Hultquist: I always hated how all that pretty eye candy came with a significant performance impact. One of the easiest ways to improve the performance of XP was to make it look like Windows 2000.

I never liked that it maintained the random DLL model. I've never understood how the guys who created VMS could let that happen.

I liked that it was stable, and that it finally got users away from the DOS-based Windows of the past.

And I think Microsoft is really messing up in trying to force people to upgrade to a system that is even less of a productivity improvement for end-users than was XP over Windows 2000. Companies can only force their customers to do things that they don't want to do one or two times. After that, they look for alternatives. Anyone see any evidence of that with Microsoft products, yet?

I'm keeping my clients on XP, and have no intention of moving them to Vista if I can possibly avoid it. And so far, I've been able to.

James C. Owen: Yours truly moved to Mac a long, long time ago. On the other hand, I've had to keep one fairly decent "Windoze" XP machine around for those products that are Windows-only. I'll resist Vista as long as possible even on that machine or any other machines I have to purchase. And I corrupted one Mac a long time ago with Parallels -- never again. It's never worked right since.

Galen Gruman: I was very happy when Windows 2000 (despite its limited driver support) and Windows XP came out, especially XP SP2. I had spent several years in the Mac OS 8 world, which was a major advance over Windows 98 but starting to show its limits as well. Plus Apple was falling apart in this period. So XP SP2 was a stable, modern, well-designed OS that made my day-to-day work easier without getting patronizing, as so many "helpful" apps end up being.

I toiled away merrily with XP for years. Mac OS X came out and looked interesting, but my platform was the PC and my primary OS was XP. Flash-forward to fall 2006. I was updating a pair of InDesign how-to books and needed to run the beta software on the current OSes, meaning Mac OS X (10.4 Tiger) and a time-limited demo version of the soon-to-ship Vista, in addition to XP. I had a six-year-old Mac to run Tiger, and a two-year-old PC with two boot drives, so I could switch between XP and Vista.

Usually, I love to explore new software, but, man, did I quickly come to dislike Vista. The interface was clumsy, with many menu items disappeared. If you didn't know something existed, now you had no way to find it other than random right-clicking. "Why mess with what worked?" I grumbled to myself. And it was slow. So slow. I used it only when I absolutely had to, dreading the "where did Microsoft hide it?" and "will I remember what I was doing when Vista finally responds?" games.

It was clear that to run Vista, I would need a new PC. But my much older Mac handled OS X just fine. I really didn't like Vista, and I couldn't see buying a new PC to run something I didn't like. I did, however, really like Tiger. "Hell," I thought, "if I'm going to invest in a new OS, let me invest in one that works." So I got a new MacBook Pro and installed XP on it via Parallels Desktop. In just two months I had abandoned all my PC apps, as it turned out I could live fine without them. My XP virtual machine is essentially a tool to run Web sites that require Internet Explorer. I never did buy Vista, and I won't. Life went on merrily.

A year later, InfoWorld launched its "Save XP" campaign, and I remembered anew the Vista experience. But now I was hearing it from dozens of IT people and individuals. With the "Save XP" campaign, it became hundreds of thousands of people. As the hope for an XP reprieve diminished this spring, I did the only rational thing: I replaced the other aging PC at home with a Mac, and helped my relatives and friends get new XP machines while still available or, for those with the money to do so, switched to an XP-equipped Mac. The Mac users among us are hoping Apple will continue on its successful path and we won't need to worry about whether Windows 7 is better than Vista. Most of the XP users are casual PC users, whose primary work is using the Internet and printing out holiday cards. For them, XP will do the trick indefinitely.

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