Visual Tour: 20 Things You Won't Like About Windows Vista

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2. Price.
If Windows Vista Ultimate is the version of Vista many of us are going to want, how much are we going to have to pay for it? Microsoft hasn't announced pricing yet, but the fact that home users who want digital media features and Remote Desktop hosting in Ultimate means that, for this reviewer anyway, Vista Ultimate will be the requisite version for his fleet of home PCs. You have to figure that it's likely to be more expensive than any previous version of Windows XP. Windows Ultimate is the superset of Home Premium and Enterprise.

So how much is that? Although no one pays this much for Windows XP Professional, the full version of the product lists for $299 (the upgrade version's suggested list price is $199). So would it be surprising for Windows Vista Ultimate to have a suggested retail price of $329, $339 or $349? Don't bet against it. I don't see Microsoft effectively lowering the price of Vista Home Premium (akin to XP Home) or Vista Business/Enterprise (akin to XP Pro) -- especially when it's merging Tablet PC and Media Center features in many of these lesser versions.

The Windows Anytime Upgrade tool.
(Click image to see larger view)

By the same token, Windows Vista Home Basic is a lesser version than XP Home. Might it sell for a bit less money? Full XP Home's suggested list price is $199, with the upgrade edition costing $99. Might it sell for $69, $79 or $89? I'm guessing that $89 is the lowest it would go as a list price. But one thing you can be sure of, if it does sell for less than XP Home, low-end consumer OEM PC makers are going to get serious about equipping new PCs with it, especially given the fact that Microsoft's Windows Anytime Upgrade will let consumers upgrade to Home Premium or Ultimate via an online purchase and download.

Windows Vista Starter is designed for emerging home-computer markets, and it has two or three primary business models. Microsoft has already tested a pay-as-you-go business model in Brazil that allows people to buy a computer in installments. They put $200 or $300 down and bring home a new Vista Starter PC. To use it, they purchase cards in denominations like 20, 30 or 50 (which correspond to monetary units, such as dollars). The cards allow them to use the computer for so many hours. In this way, they pay off the computer and eventually own it once they've purchased enough cards. Microsoft and its partners, including AMD, are planning another test of Vista Starter for India in the near future.

1. Little originality, sometimes with a loss of elegance.

Windows Sidebar
(Click image to see larger view)

Everywhere you look, Microsoft has copied things that Apple has offered for quite some time in OS X. The User Account Control features, especially with the Vista Standard log-in, look a lot like Apple's user interface design. Too bad Microsoft doesn't let you lock and unlock things (leaving those settings permanent) the way Apple does. More than 15 years later, Microsoft is still following Apple in operating system design and bundled materials. With some notable exceptions (including IE7+, where it copied Mozilla, and the Windows Sidebar, where it bests Apple, Google and everyone in user-interface design), Microsoft is belaboring the point by reinventing the wheel, often with an overall reduction in productivity and usability.

I have no problem with Microsoft copying Apple's or any other company's best interface designs. We all win when that happens, and I wish Apple would steal the best things Microsoft does right back. What's really strange is when a company lifts good ideas and makes them worse, not better.

The bitter end

After more than 15 years reviewing Windows operating systems, I didn't just suddenly begin hating Microsoft or Windows. (Although I have to admit, OS X is looking better and better of late.) Windows Vista has plenty of good aspects to recommend it. In a future article, Computerworld will make plain the many good things about Windows Vista. When the product ships, we'll also make some final recommendations on the new operating system.

Want more on Vista? We've gathered the best Computerworld coverage, from in-depth reviews and how-tos to the hottest issues surrounding the OS. Check out Vista A to Z.

Scot Finnie is Computerworld's online editorial director.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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