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Is Microsoft Vista global warming friendly?

An analysis of Microsoft's claim that Vista has a positive impact on energy efficiency.

Is Microsoft Vista global warming friendly? Could Vista be the best-selling clean-tech product in the world? I was thinking about this question the other day, and started e-mailing the Microsoft press relations folks looking for an answer.

The Microsoft answer--yes, it is. They have a recent release titled "Windows Vista Power Management Features Can Help U.K. Companies Reduce Their Carbon Footprint" on some independent research they had done by PC Pro Labs in the U.K.

Here's their quote:

"Windows Vista is Microsoft's most energy efficient operating system to date with its power management system, functionality, reliability and default settings focused on helping to reduce overall PC energy consumption. The key areas where the Sleep mode in Windows Vista has been improved compared to the equivalent Standby mode in Windows XP include:

• Enter Sleep mode after being inactive for 60 minutes
• In Windows Vista, it is much easier for users to change the power management settings themselves
• The Sleep mode is more reliable than Windows XP's Standby mode, both in terms of entering the mode and safely resuming back into Windows
• Windows Vista is much quicker at resuming from Sleep, now taking two to three seconds compared to five seconds for Windows XP."

They also published a white paper titled "Windows Vista Energy Conservation". Reading through it all, Vista does seem to be an energy efficiency masterpiece.

But I wonder--the description of these tests seemed to quite fairly compare the XP and Vista operating systems running through a series of different scenarios--but it's not a survey of real world conditions.

So I'm probably convinced that if you run the same computer post-Vista the exact same way you ran it on XP, that you'd use less power. Vista itself may actually be the best-selling clean-tech product in the world. But in the real world, we don't work that way. Each year we add a whole lot of new features and programs that suck down power, and buy more powerful PCs to run them on with every upgrade. And part of the promise of Vista is to enable even more such goodies--possibly offsetting the energy savings.

So are Windows users who have upgraded to Vista running the same programs in the same way, and the same (or more energy efficient PCs) and therefore using less power? Or are they actually using more or different features, or on a more powerful energy hog PC, and despite Microsoft's energy efficiency efforts, using more power on a daily basis anyway after the upgrade? That might not be something Microsoft could control--but I'm sure curious as to the answer from a carbon standpoint.

As a matter of full disclosure, I run XP at the office, Vista at home, own a small amount of Microsoft stock (and am a very big fan) and have a very bad habit of leaving my computer and monitor on--but I'm working on that.