Just when you think you've got it all figured out, along comes another curve ball to keep you guessing. This time around it's a set of new benchmark test results from our old friends at the exo.performance.network. Apparently, these guys heard about the brouhaha surrounding some Microsoft's engineer's blog post about using Server 2008 as a "Super Workstation OS" and decided to put the concept to the test. They loaded each OS onto identical hardware, tweaking the Server implementation to make it look and act like Vista. Then they tested them under a variety of productivity and multitasking scenarios.
The net result: Windows "Workstation" 2008 (i.e the tweaked Server 2008 installation) trashed Windows Vista with Service Pack 1, outscoring its desktop sibling by as much as 17%.
You can read all the gory details over at the exo.blog site. Suffice to say that there's a new option for power users who are fed-up with Vista's sluggishness: Windows Server 2008, or as I'm now calling it, "Windows NT 6.1 Workstation."
I made the switch myself this past weekend in support of my upcoming feature on the "Top 10 Reasons (Not) to Switch to Vista." And after just a few days running this beast I can honestly say that I will never go back to the sad piece of "bloatware" that is Windows Vista Ultimate. "NT 6.1 Workstation" is simply a superior OS. It's faster, feels more responsive and seems to do a much better job of managing the 4GB of memory I've thrown at it (Vista always seemed a bit page file-happy, even with the 4GB).
To be sure, there are things I miss about Vista. For starters, there's no Media Center. I had to scrounge around for a bunch of 3rd party CODECS just to play a DVD. Nor are any of the Vista Games available on Server 2008 (Solitaire, I'll miss you!). Useful Vista accessories, like Fax & Scan and the Windows Sidebar, are MIA, while some 3rd party tools are just plain broken (e.g. I had to downgrade my Skype install to version 3.2 since anything newer would crash consistently).
On the flip side, I can now run any and all Microsoft server applications locally, which makes debugging things like ADSI and SQL Server's Integration Services that much easier. In fact, as a pure development platform for Windows applications, Server 2008 is without equal. There's the performance (this OS really does rock). And, of course, you can tap Hyper-V to create a near-bare-metal VM environment. Visual Studio 2008 flies on this release. There really is no downside, especially if you have an MSDN account or are similarly licensed so you can use Windows Server 2008 on your own box for development purposes.
Given all the positives, I can't imaging why Microsoft didn't break-out the consumer aspects of Vista and offer a leaner, meaner "Workstation 2008" version for us hard core types. It would have gone a long way towards satiating our thirst for a "meatier" desktop Windows while rendering much of the "Save XP" messaging moot.
Maybe Microsoft just got lazy...oh well, at least now there's an alternative for those of us who are fed-up with Vista but who just can't live without Aero and the rest of the "6.x" Windows GUI.