Is Vista just Windows Me2?

Over at ZDNet, I’ve written a counterpoint to the widely quoted and amusing but (IMO) inaccurate notion that Windows Vista is the reincarnation of Windows Me. I see Vista going down a different path, the same one trod earlier by Windows 95:

Vista isn’t Me2, it’s Win95 + 12 years


So does Windows Vista deserve the Me2 label? After a careful look back at my Windows history books, I see Vista heading down a different path. In fact, I’m struck by how similar Vista’s path so far has been to the one that Windows 95 traveled. Let’s review: Windows 95 was launched with tremendous expectations on a tsunami of hype. It was notoriously unstable and finicky, and for the first year or two there weren’t all that many 32–bit programs. A total of four OEM service releases (in 1996 and 1997) added some interesting new features (like FAT32) but didn’t deal with the significant underlying problems of the OS.

It wasn’t until three years after Windows 95’s launch, with Windows 98 (and Windows 98 Second Edition a year after that) that the stability, performance, and interface problems were finally dealt with.

The similarities with Windows Vista are striking:


The comments have been especially interesting.

One commenter over there wondered if I was really trying to say that Windows Vista sucks just like Windows 95, so everyone should wait for the next version.

No, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

I didn’t say Windows 95 sucked. I said it had problems (can we talk system resources, anyone?). On balance, it was quite usable, and anyone knowledgeable learned how to work around the problems. I think the same is true of Vista today.

In the case of Windows 95, the flawed OS was still better than its predecessor, Windows 3.1, for most people, so they accepted the problems and learned to deal with them. Windows 98 fixed a number of those problems and generally added a level of polish that the original didn’t have.

In the case of Vista, there’s a perfectly good alternative in Windows XP, which is why a lot of people will wait to upgrade. I regularly hear people say, “Hey, Windows XP is doing everything I want it to do, so why should I change?” There are good reasons why some people might choose to upgrade (especially on mobile systems) but there’s little penalty in waiting.

So Vista has some compelling advantages for some people today. For others, perhaps many others, its inconveniences and temporary incompatibilities outweigh the advantages.

Read the whole historical comparison here: Vista isn’t Me2, it’s Win95 + 12 years, and feel free to leave comments here or there.

6 thoughts on “Is Vista just Windows Me2?

  1. Ed:
    I appreciate your writing and insights. Your columns are worthwhile. Thank you. Below is my rant on Vista.

    IMHO, Vista may be fine for enterprise level organizations but it does not suit the small business and personal markets well. Microsoft today is very much like IBM was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Oddly, Vista reminds me of when IBM came out with PS/2. It didn’t have a 5.25″ floppy because IBM didn’t think we needed them. Of course all the data we had stored on 5.25″ floppies couldn’t be read in the 3.5″ drive. We moved my company’s several thousand PCs to Compaq, back then, because they were more flexible. We never went back to IBM PCs. IBM thought that their way was the only way. They misjudged and lost the market.

    I don’t know if Vista is more like ME or Win95 or anything else. I do know that it is the worst OS experience I have ever had from Microsoft Windows and I go back to Windows 1.0. In my experience, it is a significant user degradation from XP .

    I am a Microsoft Partner but I am considering moving to a Mac when Leopard is launched.

    It seems crazy that we have to pay a premium to go the Vista route and experience so many problems and half-baked, poorly implemented ideas.

    I am considering moving newer non-Apple boxes to Linux, probably Ubuntu, because I can’t take the constant issues I experience with all kinds of apps malfunctioning and crashing under Vista. If I go the Linux route, I will run VMware Workstation and XP VMs so that I can still access Windows programs I need.

    I am also considering recommending that my clients move as well and add a mix of Web applications such as Google Applications to get free of the Microsoft “have it our way, you thieving pirate customer” mentality.

    The pain of Vista is really wearing me down. (Oh yeah, don’t get me started about the Office 2007 ribbon and how much of an “improvement” it is over menus and toolbars.)

  2. For what it’s worth, my Vista Home Premium installation has been rock solid stable since I installed it on Jan. 31. My reliability rating has been a perfect 10 for weeks. I have had no performance problems whatsoever.

    To be sure, it helps that I bought a new high-end computer designed for Vista a few weeks before installing Vista. Also, I run it exactly as Microsoft designed it to run. And I read Ed’s book. 🙂

  3. I get the feeling that Vista isn’t ready for the public. This is reflected by the general public reaction and the PC manufacturers who have not taken advantage of Vista’s advantages (?).

    Vista doesn’t look compelling from a graphical user standpoint. It looks rather crude and a minor jump from XP.

    The biggest problem is Microsoft’s licensing agreement, which makes early adopting stupid. Why pay so much more for the hassle? Usually, I don’t pay attention to these things, but I wonder where Microsoft is going with alienating their customers and making custom installations a hassle.

    I will use XP with my current computers for another 3 years. By then, Vista has matured and gotten better.

    On another note, jumping to Apple isn’t a consideration for me. What’s the heck with that with Post 1? Stick with XP for another few years with your hardware. Apple isn’t an answer except if you really need it for your situation.

  4. “The biggest problem is Microsoft’s licensing agreement, which makes early adopting stupid.”

    What part of the license agreement are you referring to?

  5. Virtualization, which if I was an early adopter and want to try it out, I would have to pay for a version of Vista that may not be suitable to my situation.

    Formerly, Microsoft made it difficult to transfer licenses between computers. It is really a buyer beware situation and how to make sense of it all, which I will not worry about right now.

  6. I have to agree with Richard and others: Vista has been a serious disappointment for me in several specific ways:

    — Five years and all I got was this?!
    — Stingy or nonexistent virtualization
    — One-device, vague EULA
    — Media features are disabled (and this point is marketed!) via DRM
    — Hardware hog
    — Aero is a joke and adds nothing to the OS
    — Hey, what the hell happened to my printer? HP refuses — even by July 2007 — to write Vista drivers for my new printer, and word is that they will never write them now. Same for scanner.

    While I like Vista’s disk management, that’s really about it. It appears we gained nothing more secure in Vista. As a result, Vista — along with Office 2007 — has given me enough reasons to make the switch to GNU/Linux. I’m working now to make GNU/Linux my primary machine and use my second computer as a Windows machine for various background tasks. After using DOS since 1985 and Windows since 2.0 (1987?), I’ve earned my chops on Microsoft OSes and think it’s time to give another platform a try.

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