Five Vista storys
I have three friends or relatives that are serious PC-IT types,one that's a normal user, and myself (a developer on-and-off since the Microsoft OS/2 SDK days) that have "sampled" Vista. Here's the report:
Complete success: 1
Mostly failure: 2
Partial success: 1
Mac OS-X on Intel: 1
One person has had complete success with Vista Ultimate: clean install on a Gateway convertible tablet that's about 2 years old and a fire-breathing quad-core custom gaming machine. He's a top-dog Windows data center Architect, fully cert'd at all levels. His recommendation: clean install, use only Microsoft FULLY certified drivers and applications. Apply ALL patches. Read up on the MS KB articles daily and make recommended tweaks. No problems at all with his install.
Two people (me and my wife, also an IT pro) tried Vista Ultimate at release time on Twinhead Durabook laptops. Most features worked out of the box - so long as the features were IN the Vista box. Critical 3rd party applications (like CA ErWin) would not operate in ANY mode. Worse, sync of our Moto Q phones was not possible. Without key business tool support, she went back to XP and I went back to SuSE 10.2. Six months later I returned to Vista again. Most of the initial problems were resolved (ErWin sort of worked now), and driver support was improved significantly. However, in order to get the same level of software I had with Linux I would need to spend another US$1000 for third-party applications that were Vista certified. Cost prohibitive - back to Linux. ErWin runs under CrossOver Office well enough for my use.
My kid sister, a "normal" user replaced her damaged Toshiba Satellite with a new equivalent Satellite that came with Vista Home Premium. The installation actually completes when you start the machine up, including the option to purchase an upgrade to Ultimate. Unfortunately for my sister, that's all the further she got: the network drivers steadfastly refused to set up with either her Linksys 802.11g network (simple WEP key only - could not get it to recognize either a pass phrase or the hex key) or talk to an ethernet cable (would not get a DHCP address). She has given up for a week or so, using her damaged Satellite (with XP) and an external monitor (broken screen - cheaper to buy a new laptop) until she decides to take the computer back to the Geek Squad for setup or return it and buy a Mac.
And ONE family member simply bought a new-old Mac (the early version of the MacBook Pro bought after newer models became available) and installed Parallels with XP. Everything works without problems, including the same critical 3rd. party applications that I had trouble with. The Parallels installation had no glitches what so ever, and did not even require opening the manual.
If you're a Windows expert, or have a true Windows expert as a friend that will help you through the initial installation and/or setup on a new machine, Vista will likely work fine for you. You may still have problems with specialized software that is NOT from Microsoft - typically the big-ticket business or technical packages (ErWin: US$3000+ per license, SAS: $2000+ per license, etc.) but SHOULD be able to get support - if your support contract is up to date. However, the package MAY NOT SUPPORT Vista yet, so check first before upgrading.
If you don't have a Windows expert at hand, have the support staff at the store you buy the PC from install and verify Vista AND any additional software you need. Yes, buy Office, Outlook, Visio, etc. NEW and have it installed WITH THE PC PURCHASE. This should insure that the new machine has a good chance of working, and, if there is a problem, it's the seller's problem, not yours. Just don't add any uncertified software without having a complete backup that can be used to restore to the pre-installation state if something fails.
If you're an average home user, spend the extra US$300-400 and get a Mac. It doesn't do more than Vista - in fact, it will do less - but it is pretty much hassle-free. And THAT'S worth a hundred quid, isn't it? If you need Windows, Parallels or one of the other VM implementations will let you add XP easily.
FInally, if you really, REALLY want to get a Windows PC, get one with XP rather than Vista. Unless you get the store to do the complete install for you, there's too much risk of a problem during the customer completion of the Vista install. You might come out just fine, but just one mistake and you're back to starting from the restore disks - which may or may not work.
I hated to write this up - I really wanted Vista to work for me. I have a large investment in Windows software, much of which doesn't work in CrossOver, and the Linux equivalents are OK but still not as mature as Windows applications. I have to do a LOT of extra work to get things working in Linux - but, once done, I've not had to mess with them again - even across several version upgrades. And even my Windows expert friend had to go through three install cycles with Vista to get it set up right - although that's considered par for ANY new OS while you're learning about it. Excepting the Mac, there's nothing out there today that will NOT require some time for installation and learning, and even the Mac has some issues (see all the problems with Leopard).
So take this review on Vista's birthday with a grain of salt, but hopefully it will give some confidence in making an OS decision - or at least which cliff seems to be the shortest when you decide to jump.