We sat down with Microsoft to hear the company’s side of the Vista story. What lessons have been learned following the worst Windows launch in the company’s history? Is Microsoft doing enough to regain PC users’ faith?
Way back in January 2007, after years of hype and anticipation, Microsoft unveiled Windows Vista to a decidedly lukewarm reception by the PC community, IT pros, and tech journalists alike. Instead of a revolutionary next-generation OS that was chock-full of new features, the Windows community got an underwhelming rehash with very little going for it. Oh, and Vista was plagued with performance and incompatibility problems to boot.
Since then, the PC community has taken the idea that Vista is underwhelming and turned it into a mantra. We’ve all heard about Vista’s poor network transfer speeds, low frame rates in games, and driver issues—shoot, we’ve experienced the problems ourselves. But over the last 18 months, Vista has undergone myriad changes, including the release of Service Pack 1, making the OS worth a second look. It’s time we determine once and for all whether we should stick with XP for the next 18 months while we wait for Windows 7. But before we answer that question, let’s review exactly what’s wrong with Windows Vista.
Vista almost seems to be an anathema, for about 3/4th of the enterprises are so unequivocal in their dislike for Vista that they don’t even intend to adopt the OS three years down the line. Around 28% envisage a move to the OS anywhere between late 2008 and 2010. Half of those surveyed are not fazed by the end of XP’s retail sales and OEM distribution.
Lesson for Microsoft: The Mojave Experiment hasn’t been able to fool incredulous enterprises and it's time that MS devoted more time to addressing Vista’s glaring performance issues. Address their grievances, the tide will surely turn.
It's a super-sized Patch Tuesday this month, and here's what to expect Windows Update to be sending you in the next day or so (if not already). Follow the links if you prefer to install the updates immediately.
Critical updates include:
A fix for a remote code execution vulnerability in Windows Image Color Management affects users running Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 SP4 (Windows Vista users can breathe easy on this one).
A fix for a sextet of vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 5.01, 6, and 7 affects users of Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP2 and SP3, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008.
A fix for a remote code execution vulnerability in the ActiveX control for Microsoft Access's snapshot viewer affects Office 2000 SP3, Office XP SP3, and Office 2003 SP2 and SP3 (Office 2007 users, you ducked this one).
As we told you last week, Microsoft rolled out two new security programs, Microsoft Active Protections Program and Microsoft Exploitability Index, during the Black Hat USA 2008 Conference. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the same conference saw a presentation by security experts Mark Dowd and Alexander Sotirov that renders these and other protections for Windows Vista, including its much-touted Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Protection (DEP) features, effectively null and void.
How did they do it? The full presentation (available here in PDF format) is quite technical, but here's the short version. according to SC Magazine:
In explaining the problem, the researchers said that most memory protection mechanisms are based on two things: detecting corruption and stopping common exploit patterns, and attempts to reinforce these are integral to Vista. But in many cases, some of the built-in protection mechanisms in Vista are not enabled by default for compatibility reasons.
“At the desktop level, compromises had to be made because of compatibility issues. Exploiters have a lot more control over browsers,” Sotirov said.
And in many cases, third-party applications are not compiled to use the Vista memory protections. For example, Java and Flash are not compiled using the critical protection called ASLR.
What can be done? My take: Microsoft needs to rethink the balance of compatibility versus protection, do a better job of informing users of what's protected and what's not, and get third-party application vendors to take advantage of the protection features in Vista. What about ordinary users like us? Watch out for compromised legitimate websites, and, as always, as our own Will Smith says, think before you click.
What's your take on Vista and other browser security issues? See us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
The results of Microsoft's Project Mojave, in which Microsoft demoed Windows Vista under a code name for 120 Vista skeptics in the San Francisco area, are now avaiable online, the Windows Vista blog reported today, and also explained some test details:
The focus group took place over three days in San Francisco and was conducted earlier this month.
All participants were either Mac, Linux, or users of versions of Windows that came before Windows Vista.
Respondents were chosen from the focus group organizer's database, called at random, but then selected based on having a low perception of Vista (<5 rating on a scale of 1-10).
The participants were given a demo by a trained retail salesperson - geared towards the experiences they seemed most interested in following a series of interviews. While the retail salesperson drove the demo, it was geared by the interests and direction of the participant.
We did not use some geeked out or custom built PC. We used an HP Pavilion DV2500. It had 2GB of RAM and was running an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7500 @ 2.20GHz. The OS was a 32 bit version of Windows Vista Ultimate.
Of the 120 respondents* polled, on a scale of 1:10 where 10 was the highest rating, the average pre-rating for Windows Vista was 4.4. After they saw the demo, respondents rated Mojave an average of 8.5.
*84% of respondents use Windows XP; 22% use MacOS; 14% use versions of Windows before XP; 1% use Linux.
To see the interviews for yourself, head over to the Mojave Experiment website.
To learn more about the history of hidden-camera marketing campaigns, and to find out who might have suggested it first, see us after the jump.
CNet reports that the development of Windows 7 is going well. According to Windows unit head Bill Veghte:
The product is tracking very, very well. We are committed and looking good, relative to our commitment--[shipping Windows 7] three years from general availability of Windows Vista.
That wasn't the only good news for Windows fans in Veghte's talk, though. The Mojave Project, which provides Windows XP users a chance to "taste-test" Vista under the code name Mojave, is making inroads (read our take here). Veghte also cited recent internal figures showint that 89% of users are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with Windows Vista, and 83% would recommend Vista to friends or family.
Veghte also states that Internet Explorer 8, which we told you about earlier this year, will be available in final form later this year.
What are your plans for Windows Vista or Windows 7? See us after the jump for a chance to talk back!
Microsoft has long offered hardware compatibility information for different versions of Windows, including Windows Vista. Remember the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL)? Until now, though, Microsoft has dropped the ball on making software compatibility easy to determine. With a renewed emphasis on marketing and customer satisfaction this summer, Microsoft has now created an easy-to-use one-stop shop for determining which hardware and software products will work with Windows Vista, the Windows Vista Compatibility Center.
For a quick tour of the WVCC, and to learn how you can make it even better, see us after the jump.
Microsoft is going to extraordinary lengths this summer to make some of its customers satisfied with Windows Vista - or else. If they don't love Vista, Microsoft will help them downgrade to Windows XP. How much does this new customer-satisfaction blitz cost? For you, special price: nothing!
However, not everybody gets the special Microsoft Vista schmooze. To find out who gets the special love from Redmond, and how long they get primo treatment, you know what to do. We'll see you after the break.
The August 2008 cumulative time zone update for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Server 2003, and Server 2008 is now available at KB951072. New time zone changes include the Arabic, Argentina, Iran, Morocco, Pacific SA, and Pakistan time zones, but it also includes all previous changes.
If it's been a while since you updated your system's time zone information, it's time to bring your PC up to date. For more information and for download links, go to KB951072.