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Doug's Mailbag: Gartner's Microsoft Diss, XP Mode, More

Doug had a few choice words for the analysts at Gartner this week after they questioned whether Microsoft was still relevant. But the firm didn't score too many points with readers, either:

You're pretty spot-on when it comes to Gartner, only you're not hard enough on them. Other than keeping the unemployment levels from rising, I see little need for the spittle these "analyst" companies produce. How can anyone take seriously these companies and authors (I use that term loosely), when whatever they write is never held accountable? They don't have a long enough track record of correct observations to give any of their poorly conceived reports any credence.

We can be grateful for two things: They keep people employed (however illegitimately) and they put their write-ups online so they kill fewer trees. Unfortunately, actually reading the reports leads to a loss in productivity and dead brain cells (sometimes followed quickly by an Excedrin experience).

Gartner is just too wrapped up in all its own hype. One of the problems with a lot of groups like Gartner is that they haven't been around long enough to remember their IT history. Vendors have been predicting the demise of the fat client for almost as long as the PC has existed. As early as 1984, IBM was pushing diskless PCs which booted off of a central server where its applications were to reside. Every few years, a new incarnation of thin client products appears using the latest variation of the client/server model.

To be sure, there is plenty of room for thin clients and the client/server model, but the model is not a panacea! In the right niche, these products have always done well, but as a replacement for a generic computing platform, they have never gone anywhere -- and there is no reason we should think they are going anywhere now.

Of course, Microsoft is still relevant. They have the ultimate fat client, but you can argue that they have a pretty good thin client since XP is running on so many netbooks.

I do have a gripe with their Windows Mobile (I have not tried WiMo 6.5 yet). Through version 6.0, I have had to reset my phone once per day. They can't blame that on secondary hardware vendors. Thankfully, it just hangs instead of popping up a BSOD. They have almost forced me to go to an iPhone.

You wrote, "Those who can't do, analyze." Ouch, that hurts.

Doug asked recently whether XP Mode is worth all the hassle of managing, updating and securing. Here are a few of your thoughts:

Yes, XP Mode is worth the trouble. I don't say this because I run old applications, but because I run a new application: VMware vSphere Client, which is used to manage my vSphere 4 virtual machines. It ran with no issues under XP and Vista, but will not run under Windows 7. This client was released in May, and as of this e-mail, an updated client has still not been released, and VMware does not seem to be in a hurry to update it. Without XP Mode, I would either have to wait to move to Windows 7, keep a separate machine for managing my vSphere virtual machines, or run Virtual PC.

I would opt for XP Mode for my firm. As an insurance agency, we have a lot of value already associated with older software that would cost us significantly if we had to upgrade them, as well as our operating system. We will also face the problem of buying new machines. We had a hard enough time getting XP in the Vista era on new equipment. I would see it as marginally impossible in the Win 7 era without XP Mode.

Our office runs a fax server using Winfax Pro 10.03 (upgraded to 10.04 for XP SP2 and SP3 communications issues) with a client on every machine. I know there are other software products out there that do the same or similar, but why do I want to invest in something new to replace something that still works well? This is one of ten to 12 pieces of critical operational software that we need that I know Windows 7, out of the box, will not support. I know that at some point, you have to bite the bullet and move on. But Vista wasn't it and I will not risk my company on Windows 7 not being it also.

I installed Windows 7 Ultimate on my Lenovo M58 Tower about a week ago. This machine is about nine months old, so I assumed it would have the virtualization technology BIOS setting needed to run XP Mode. Unfortunately, it didn't. I updated the BIOS and still am not able to enable virtualization technology. I don't know what the hardware requirements are for this BIOS option, but I'd think with a Core2Quad processor and 4GB RAM, I wouldn't have a problem. In an XP environment, not having access to Active Directory, Group Policy or any other Win Server 2003/Windows XP-friendly applications is a problem.

I say, forget about XP Mode in Windows 7. Why not just keep XP and run Windows 7 virtually if you need some new tricks?

I think Microsoft has lost the plot completely. If they want to know why sales have plummeted since Vista's release, they should look at what benefits the new OSes have over the old (besides some new colours and wallpapers). In fact, I struggle to see any major difference between Vista and Windows 7 at all -- and I'll bet so will most of the small-business owners who make up a large part of Microsoft's new sales. Does either Windows 7 or Vista address the fact that Microsoft want us to pay for their software when it's full of bugs and holes you can drive a truck through?

On that note, here are a few more of your Windows 7 impressions so far:

I've been running Windows 7 for around six months, between the betas and then the release candidate. I love it. I'm a gamer, so I've got a high-end box, anyway, so Vista performance for me was fine (ignoring the usability). But Windows 7 really is a huge step up. It's peppier. It's far more intuitive. I have really enjoyed using it.

But the real proof is in the pudding: I've had my wife running it as long as I have (she's not in IT) and she loves it, too. Next up, Mom's conversion.

My first look at Win 7 (Home Premium) came at Staples earlier this afternoon, on an Acer notebook with 3GB RAM and 250GB HD. I right-clicked on the desktop, hoping to learn what the pixel count of the screen was. No luck -- just a little, spinning, Vista-like ferris wheel icon. System busy.

I gave it up. Even Vista never did that to me. Not a very auspicious first encounter with Windows 7, if you ask me.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/30/2009 at 1:17 PM


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