With Windows 7's launch looming, a company executive yesterday denigrated its predecessor, calling Vista a "less good product."
The comment won't surprise many analysts and users, who have condemned the 2007 operating system as bloated, slow, and balky, but it's the furthest any high-level Microsoft executive has gone in criticizing Vista.
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"What people underestimate is the importance of good or bad products," said Charles Songhurst, Microsoft's general manager of corporate strategy, at a investor's conference on Tuesday. "And sometimes your products are good, sometimes the products are bad. And I think Vista was a less good product for Microsoft."
Windows 7, on the other hand, is much better than good, Songhurst argued. "Windows 7 is an extremely good product from Microsoft. It's been brilliantly developed, and I think people probably underestimate the effects of the bad products and the good products."
In the past, Microsoft's top managers have limited their public criticism of Vista to oblique comparisons with the new Windows 7. Last October, for example, CEO Steve Ballmer called Windows 7 ""Windows Vista, a lot better."
A month later, others, including Stephen Sinofsky, who heads Windows development, acknowledged mistakes had been made with Vista, but swore that they would not be repeated with Windows 7.
Company executives' private opinions of Vista were much more revealing, however. According to internal Microsoft e-mails disclosed in 2008 during a class-action lawsuit, senior executives and a board member griped about Vista shortly after it was released in early 2007, saying it was missing drivers and crippled their new PCs.
For the most part, Windows 7's reception by analysts, users, and reviewers has been positive, with Computerworld's Preston Gralla representative of the consensus. "If you're a Vista user, you'll do well to upgrade to Windows 7; it's a superior operating system," Gralla said in his review of the final code.
At the Webcast conference, sponsored by the Jeffries investment and banking group, Songhurst also dismissed the idea that Apple and Google, with their Mac OS and Chrome OS, respectively, pose a threat to Microsoft's dominance in the operating system market.
"Apple has two very big structure advantages over us," Songhurst acknowledged. "The first is its vertical integration ... there's always the quality of experience you can do if you go vertical that you can never do as a horizontal player."