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Windows Vista: The Witch Hunt Continues

Ara Trembly
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 8, 2009

Perhaps the biggest challenge to us mere humans in this era of massive information availability is to filter out the noise and get to the nub of what truly interests us.  

As a result, those of us who scan Internet news services and the like tend to take in the articles on the basis of a headline and maybe a brief subhead. For the most part, this poor man’s speed reading technique serves to give us the gist of what is going on—but not always.  

Take the following headline found at the Yahoo! Tech site: “Ballmer Finally Confesses: Vista Sucks”. Wow, I thought, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, is saying publicly that the Windows Vista operating system is that bad? Now don’t get me wrong; I have heard Steve Ballmer speak live at several events, and I don’t think I would get an argument if I said that he has a tendency to be bombastic and over the top in such settings. If anyone would pull such a business faux pas, it might well be he.  

My first instinct was to look for the “sucks” quote in the article, and after scanning it high and low, I didn’t find it. Next, I looked closer and discovered that this appeared to be an opinion piece, so I attributed the “sucks” comment to the author’s viewpoint and began scanning for the damning remarks from Ballmer. Unfortunately, the worst thing Ballmer is quoted as saying about Windows Vista is that the product got “some uneven reception” because “we made some design decisions to improve security at the expense of compatibility.”  

So that’s it? That is the justification for that ridiculous headline? Can you imagine how many people read that headline (and not the story) and began telling all their friends and relatives and cocktail party acquaintances that Steve Ballmer said Vista sucks? I’m sure the partygoers had a hearty chuckle at Ballmer’s apparent buffoonery, not to mention Vista’s already stained reputation.  

First, let’s deal with the veracity of the headline in question. As both a reviewer and user of Windows Vista, I can confirm that it does not “suck.” In my review, I liked the improved search function and the ability to “flip” pages onscreen. My complaint was that the increased security required me to answer a lot more security questions than were necessary with Windows XP. Overall, however, I thought the security updates were a positive, and that the OS offered some improvements over the previous version.  It wasn’t a glowing review, but it was far from the “sucks” category.  

Were there compatibility issues? I didn’t find any, but then again I have seen reports of some problems, notably with installation. Some of these problems, however, may have been due to trying to install the OS on a system that was not compatible in the first place (as some responders to this Yahoo! piece pointed out). I also recall that some of the negative reviews I read a couple of years ago were done by people who tried to do a lot of customization of the OS—not something the average user would undertake.  

Vista was not a major improvement to XP, but neither was it the disaster that it has been portrayed as in much of the tech media. Certainly there are enterprises in the insurance space using Vista, and I have heard no reports of major difficulties. (Perhaps my readers have?). It has quickly become evident, however, that the technology press hates Vista about as much as the mainstream press hates Sarah Palin. Never mind that many were successfully implementing and using Vista; the message was negative at every turn—a true witch hunt that apparently continues to this day.  

Perhaps the coming debut of Microsoft Windows 7, which has gotten mostly positive pre-release reviews, will mean the end of Vista’s burning at the media stake. On the other hand, bad news is good news for media who are, themselves, hungry to survive in an extremely competitive business environment. It says a lot about the current state of journalism—and that message, too, is negative.  

Perhaps this wave of journalism as entertainment will teach younger readers that they can’t always believe what they read—especially in a headline. If it does that much, it will have served a useful purpose.

Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services. He can be reached at ara@aratremblytechnology.com.

The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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