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What's so bad about XP?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says companies need to ditch XP for Vista. Don Reisinger is wondering what he has against XP.

Windows XP
I prefer XP to Vista. Am I alone? Microsoft

In an interview with Computerworld UK, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had some interesting things to say about the enterprise and its desire to keep Windows XP instead of switching to Vista.

"If you deploy a 4- or 5-year-old operating system today, most people will ask their boss why the heck they don't have the stuff they have at home," Ballmer told the publication.

Ballmer went on to say that it's incumbent upon the business world to make employees happy and comfortable and the best way to do that is to deploy Vista as soon as possible.

According to market research firm Forrester, Windows Vista can be found on less than 10 percent of all the computers companies in North America and Europe are running. Windows XP can be found on over 71 percent of enterprise computers. Ballmer wants that to change.

But his premise that an increasing number of people will be asking for Vista doesn't really make sense. According to research firm Net Applications, Windows XP still controls almost 64 percent of the worldwide consumer market. It's trailed by Vista and Mac OS X 10.5 with 27 percent market share and 5 percent market share, respectively.

Based on those figures, I'm not convinced that there are that many people walking into their supervisor's office wondering when Vista will be deployed at the office. In fact, it's far more likely that they would rather use something they know--XP.

But Ballmer's desire to get enterprises to switch to Vista has me wondering what's so bad about Windows XP. Is it really such an awful operating system that every company should switch?

No way.

I realize Ballmer has a vested financial interest in seeing more companies switch to Vista, but I'm a firm believer that they should stick to XP until Windows 7 is released and all the kinks are worked out. That's why I only use Vista when I must.

It's not that I hate Vista, I just think that it suffers from too many issues to justify using it. It's too resource-intensive and I don't want to buy a new computer to optimize its performance. But I can (and do) run XP on my Asus Eee PC, as well as an older machine that isn't even capable of running Vista.

And although the mention of security is always made when comparing Vista to XP, I don't take the bait. I've installed Service Pack 3 into XP and you know what? It's just as secure, based on the way I use the OS, as Vista with SP1 installed.

But it goes beyond security. I prefer XP because, unlike Vista, I don't need to worry about the quality of my GPU or how much RAM my computer has. It just works with what I have. More importantly, I find that Vista is much slower, even with better components, than a comparably equipped XP machine. For a newer OS, that's unacceptable.

From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense to keep XP for now. The enterprise is still upset about Vista's compatibility issues when it first launched and because it's so resource-intensive, many companies would need to update their machines just to deploy the OS. Windows 7 is also right around the corner and it only makes sense, especially in uncertain economic times, to wait and save money for now.

Maybe Ballmer is right and he really does have his finger on the pulse of computer users across the world, but I prefer XP and think it's a better operating system than Vista. I know he has to say that companies should switch because his company spent all that money on developing Vista, but I think his logic is flawed (do employees really complain about Vista vs. XP?) and I think he's being too hard on the elder OS.

And it looks like many companies agree.

"IT decision-makers don't have an entirely rosy outlook for Windows Vista," Forrester analysts said in a recent report. "We found that 15 percent plan on skipping Windows Vista entirely and going straight to Windows 7 soon after its release in 2010. And another 22 percent still have no definitive plans for deploying Windows Vista, and 6 percent simply don't know yet what their plans are."


Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.