Windows Vista Business – First Impressions of Consultant & Customer

My blog entry last week giving my views on Vista in a nutshell received a lot of feedback – some of it agreeing with my points that SME’s should hold fire before upgrading due to application, driver and hardware issues – some of it disagreeing (and some of it disagreeing quite vocally!).

Mike from Microsoft posted comments, and a few others made the same argument via e-mail, that my view of Vista had been formed whilst using the various Beta copies of the software – not the full release.

Therefore last week, whilst visiting a customer who was interested in running Vista themselves to help them form an opinion, we took the opportunity to slap the full release of Vista Business onto one of their standard PCs – in this case a HP Compaq dx2000 comprising of a P4 2.8ghz Processor, 512mb memory and a ATI Radeon Xpress 200 Graphics Card. A fairly standard setup for businesses – a PC purchased “off the shelf” from one of the big PC manufacturers in the last 18 months.

The PC had a copy of Windows XP Professional and all this customers LOB applications on it.

Running the Vista Upgrade Advisor within XP first showed us where we were likely to hit problems – it came as no surprise to find that an older version of AVG Anti-Virus and Diskeeper Defragmentation software weren’t compatible with Vista. It also suggested that some features (Aero) may not work with our existing Graphics Card.

Pressing onwards, the Upgrade process really was a breeze – very quick and simple. The machine was part of a domain and these settings were transferred across seamlessly.

The logon process raised some eyebrows – when you are used to a bog-standard username/password prompt and drop-down domain select box – the response from the gathering masses was that it reminded them of “Duplo bricks”. Ahem.

The ease of changing Accessibility features from the logon screen was a useful touch.

Once logged on, the Desktop does look lovely – even with Aero turned off. Windows showed us that we had a “Windows Experience Rating” of… 1.00… certainly not hot, but we expected that. The ATI Radeon Xpress driver didn’t work out of the box, but a quick click of “Update Driver” button within Device Manager resolved that by visiting Microsoft Update in the background. Simple and painless.

Response times were very snappy – despite only 512mb memory. Much snappier than I was used to on earlier releases of Vista. Nod to Microsoft Mike – I stand corrected. 😉

What else caught the eye?

  • The Start Menu

Universally loved and adored. The ability to click the erm… blob… where the Start button used to be, and then type any program, document name, web-site, etc. and have it found and loaded was an instant hit. Going into Vista, this was my favourite feature too.

  • Windows Meeting Space

Was greeted with a mild nod of approval, as the usefulness in being able to start a peer-to-peer sharing session between executives with laptops is obvious.

  • Windows Backup

This elicited cries of “at last!”. Whilst 3rd party tools can improve on Windows Backup, it’s nice to finally see support for CD and DVD-RW’s, external HDD’s, USB Devices and Network Backups. Now the only hurdle to making sure roaming laptop users data is really backed up is the most difficult hurdle, getting the users to actually do it!

Help & Support seems much improved also. I like the way it can automatically updated from the Internet, that hovering over certain links shows their destination, and from my own perspective, I was pleased to see the “Small Business Resources” link – sending us to Microsoft’s own web pages on how to make the most of EVO from a SME perspective. After all, just buying and slapping on Vista and/or Office 2007 is only the first step – you want help on actually using all this shiny technology to help you run your business better!

So that was the first impressions of a final release Vista Business installation, from both my POV and the customers. Of course, that is just the result of a couple of hours mooching around the O/S – Vista obviously needs more time and attention to find the other real value. My customer is now pressing on with an MS Office 2007 trial too, to see how they cope with the new interface there too.

I do still hold my view that unless you’re a customer approaching the end of your, for example, standard 3 year hardware replacement cycle, that you’re better of sticking with XP for a while longer. Even the most die-hard Vista fan would have to admit that a lot of the new features can be replicated through third party tools on XP, perhaps not as seamlessly, but still. Whilst my view might seem to rebel against my usual techno-frenzy for all things new, I think it’s a realistic point of view.

As a footnote, whilst visiting my brother over the weekend, I got to play with Windows Vista Home Premium (rather predictably, my brothers OEM copy arrived whilst I still wait for my Retail Upgrade to appear…) installed on an actual Media PC – one of these new silent VCR size jobbies that are appearing. With Aero turned on, there is no denying Vista looks superb. The Media Centre applications are neat, and the Windows Sidebar Gadgets come into their own too. However, be warned, on a CRT television (even a 28″ model) – using anything other than the chunky icon style Media Centre applications will pretty soon cause eyestrain. The text just isn’t clear enough. This is a short-coming of CRT technology, not Vista, of course. A swift upgrade to a LCD Television is therefore now on my brothers shopping list!


  • Rob2007-02-06 12:40:11

    Ordered my Vista OEM too to upgrade my media computer too......

  • Mike2007-02-05 19:38:06

    Glad to see that you had a better than expected experience with Vista and Office 2007 second time around :). By the way - the "blob" where the start button used to be is called the Pearl (no idea why). Did your customer like the animated self executing help option? For example, type Hidden Files in the help and you can get it to automatically show hidden files for you whilst showing you where. I think that's a really nice feature for home and office users who aren't expert.  

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