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Some men, you just can’t reach: Microsoft says that a large problem with Vista is lack of understanding of key features (via Donna). Failuretocommunicate1238188

These are:

“• User Account Control – A key goal of UAC in Windows Vista is to help nudge Independent Software Vendors towards designing applications that function in standard user mode. One reason this feature is misunderstood is because UAC isn’t a single feature; it’s a set of technologies to help end users run with standard user privileges, and reserves Local Administrator privileges for IT staff or limited specific circumstances.

• Image management – Few people relish change, especially when it comes to getting their jobs done. For IT Professionals managing the image creation and deployment process, Windows Vista represents some significant changes over Windows XP, and image management is an area where Windows Vista provides the most benefit for implementation. The goal of the architectural change is to simplify the image creation and management process, but this does involve a few differences and tradeoffs.

• Display Driver Model – One trade off of the Aero interface is that it requires a graphics processing unit (GPU) that supports the Display Driver Model, and has dedicated memory on the graphics card. PCs with an integrated graphics card may not support the Aero visual interface. However, the stability and performance advantages of WDDM are available independent of Aero. NOTE: PCs that are not up to the hardware requirements for Windows Vista should be operated in “Basic” mode with Aero turned off.

• Search – One of the most significant improvements in Windows Vista is the ability to rapidly search all the files on the desktop, whether they reside in folders, as an email attachment, or somewhere else on the PC. Search does require that the system index file locations so they can be quickly retrieved at will, though the approach taken by Windows Vista should not interfere with system performance while in use.

• 64 bit architecture – 64-bit computing is definitely the direction of the future, and its primary advantage over 32-bit computing is in access to system memory. The 32-bit edition of Windows is Vista limited to 4GB of memory, and depending on the devices present, can access between 2 and 3.5 GB of “user available” memory. In contrast, the Business, Enterprise and Ultimate editions of 64-bit Windows Vista can access 128GB of memory. An important consideration, however, is when and how a user should install Windows Vista in 64-bit (x64) over 32-bit (x86). For mainstream consumers and businesses, Windows Vista x86 will be the preferred operating system for the next couple of years.

Each of feature has specific benefits for desktop (and laptop) management, but they also make adoption a bit tougher since they affect two key areas: application compatibility and hardware performance. This article explains the rationale behind these features, shows how they actually make PC administration more controllable and robust, and provides guidance and tips to make them easier to work with.”

(Full document PDF link here.)

Ok, putting aside my typical insouciance (and a good reason for Microsoft to once again reject my MVP nomination), Microsoft does have some valid points here. However, UAC could certainly have been handled better. It does something the security industry has been well aware of for a long time — it creates the “cry wolf” problem of popup fatigue (people turn off or ignore the popups after awhile). Vista is more secure than XP, despite what others might say, but it still gets infected. Since over 80% of all infections are based on social engineering, the popups should focus on that weak point. If UAC targeted the key areas where people run into trouble (as opposed to harrasing the user on inane actions), it would be far more helpful and potentially make a really significant impact on infection rates. This would be the subject of a far longer and more intellectual blog post than I care to get into right now, so I’ll let someone else go through that rationale if they are motivated in that direction.

I also think that the Microsoft marketing folks were really not cool in their approach to licensing, doing the old IBM trick of leaving features in but disabling them depending on your license — and charging big dollars to get incremental additional features. I bought a Home Premium Vista system for my wife, and couldn’t TS into it, because TS isn’t supported unless you buy Ultimate (so I had to run a silly hack, which is frustrating when the functionality is right there in the OS). If you want to know something that really upsets off techies, it’s this kind of stuff. And it doesn’t help with that whole adoption thing we all learn about in high tech marketing.

If you want to win in markets, give the customer more than they paid for — don’t nickel and dime them. Simple trick, works wonders. Really, this is a key business axiom, it’s not just fluffy happy stuff.

I personally find running Vista frustrating, but then again, I haven’t delved into it with any great vigor. I’m also a UI luddite — the first thing I do on any system — XP or Vista, is put the start menu back to classic, all the folders back to classic, etc. (I’d still be running DOS with DESQview if I could). So I took the easy way out — I simply downloaded Oddbasket’s XP Vista Pack and I fake the Vista experience.

Alex Eckelberry
(Incidentally, we recently started a free newsletter on Vista, and you can subscribe here.)