Windows Vista One Year Later
By Tom Spring
Reprinted from PC World Magazine, February, 2008
If you're running Vista and you need a multifunction printer, Brother's MFC 5860CN might seem a great choice. After all, it's proudly sold as "Certified for Windows Vista." But don't try using the optical character recognition software that comes with the printer: PaperPort 9 from Nuance isn't Vista compatible. (Brother recommends using Microsoft Office's Document Imaging feature instead.) The MFC 5860CN's Internet fax option also works only with XP, not Vista. Almost a year after Vista's commercial release, this kind of support, or nonsupport, is not uncommon, according to Jim McGregor, research director at market research firm In Stat. Analyst Chris Swenson of the NPD Group notes that, while major software and hardware vendors have developed new Vista compatible offerings, they have been slow to provide Vista support for their legacy products, which frequently become crippled or inoperative under the new OS, to the consternation of these products' owners.
Photoshop Users Upset
Adobe Photoshop CS2, to take just one example, still isn't fully compatible with Microsoft's latest operating system. "If you want Vista and you use Adobe CS, you are going to have to buy the new CS3 version," Swenson says. CS3 costs $649 for new users, and $200 as an upgrade from CS2. Adobe is developing free Windows Vista patches for some products, but says more than a dozen of its programs don't support Vista (because all or part of the program won't install, or it installs but doesn't work properly) or don't "officially" support Vista (meaning that the program has known issues). Incompatibility issues always accompany a new release of Windows. When XP shipped six years ago, however, such problems were significantly less frequent, Swenson says. This time around, "vendors wish they could just forget about [supporting XP-era products]," he says.
But it's nearly impossible for companies to patch all their products for Vista, says In Stat's McGregor. Shrinking release cycles mean many products need Vista drivers or patches, and creating them gets expensive. Intuit, for one, certifies only the 2007 and 2008 editions of its QuickBooks Premier accounting software for Vista, so firms that bought QuickBooks 2006 for $400 must pay $375 to receive a Vista compatible edition. Intuit does not supply a Vista compatibility patch or upgrade for older versions of QuickBooks Premier, though for a limited time, when the OS first launched, the company offered special discounts for Vista compatible versions of its software.
When 'Certified' Isn't
Sometimes, as with Brother's multifunction printer, even products described as compatible with Vista just aren't. Corel's Ulead VideoStudio 10 video editing software, for instance, appears on Microsoft's "Certified for Windows Vista" list of hardware and software products that have been tested and are 100 percent compatible yet Corel's support page for the product lists some advanced features that work only with XP, and the product also appears on Microsoft's "Works with Windows Vista" list. The "Works with..." logo means that an app meets baseline performance standards when run on Vista.
Don't Blame Microsoft?
Ben Reed, product marketing manager for the Windows Vista Logo Program, says 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 given the "Works with..." logo. Last May, he points out, the NPD Group stated that 48 out of the top 50 consumer applications work with Vista.
Nevertheless, the Vista compatibility problems are apparently making people reluctant to upgrade to the new OS. PCWorld.com community forum user stealth694, for example, wrote: "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, another 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."
If you're considering upgrading to Vista, carefully investigate the compatibility of your existing hardware and software. Study the support pages, including forums or community sites, of the products you depend on; do a Web search for the names of these products and "Vista compatibility." Otherwise, your upgrade may end up feeling more like a downgrade.
Note: The Foreign Language Media Center which has considerable investment in both legacy hardware and software has not adopted the new Vista operating system for its student clusters because of the significant compatibility issues that it poses. Once these issues have been largely resolved, its adoption can be considered for some Media Center clusters.