Even some of those who like Vista on their home computers have been unable to use it for work. "I love Vista on my home machine. But it would be completely impossible to use at work. I still need to support applications running on Pocket PC 2002 and Windows CE 4.2 platforms, and for that I need the development environment I wrote them with -- Microsoft eMbedded Visual C++. This is not supported, and doesn't work, on Windows Vista. Even where the customer has upgraded some devices, a move to Visual Studio 2005 native device development entails a change of libraries, which can have complicated breaking changes. Oh, and they broke serial ActiveSync as well," noted a U.K. developer who declined to be identified.
And of course, those much-publicized performance issues loom large. "It uses mega hard disk space and has a lot more running programs in the background than XP," noted a support technician at a broadband provider, who asked for anonymity.
User frustration equals IT frustration
Support staff and IT consultants also feel the pain, mainly from the confusion that Microsoft's new UI and security controls cause their users.
IT consultant Scott Pam is frustrated with the burden that Vista has placed on him. "Customers are panicking," he says, since they can't find their data or common controls in the new UI and assume the data has been lost or their Vista PC is broken. "So I go back for free [to explain how to use Vista], costing hundreds of dollars of my time." He asks why Microsoft could not have offered its new security approach and other features without breaking the familiar Windows XP UI. "Apple added new capabilities in all the versions since Mac OS X 10.2 but kept the interface, drivers, and applications mostly compatible. Microsoft changed everything."
The broadband company's support technician faces the same user frustration. "A lot of us cringe when we get a call regarding Vista. It is hard to understand, hard to find what we need, and hard to explain it to customers," she said.
The new UAC (user access control) security approach bedevils both IT consultant Pam and his clients. Not only do users not know how to respond to endless "are you sure" messages about possible security threats, Vista's lockdown of users' own files areas keeps clients from being able to work. He cites a user who dutifully copied all his data to a USB drive before converting to Vista, only to discover that Vista would not let him copy the data back because the USB drive wasn't accessed through administrator privileges. "That's ridiculous -- it's his drive," Pam said. The idea of having to log in as an administrator just doesn't occur to users, he noted.
Jason Sage, a developer and software engineer who didn't want his company named, is also frustrated by overzealous security in Vista, which he believes works against the standard set by Microsoft .Net and Visual Studio. True, in Vista, Microsoft has documented what developers need to do to give applications permission to access their own configuration files. But Sage thinks the basic approach is wrong. "What we have now is applications running as the user. This is too much responsibility for many users who have no idea what all the software on their machine is doing while running as them."