Note to my readers: Don't make the mistake of allowing the pestilence called Microsoft Vista through the gate of your company -- if your experience is like mine, it is a pestilence likely to wreak havoc for months. Avoid Office 2007, too, since after more than a week of work, it is still not clear to me where all the problems with the new Microsoft software really lie. Here's my open letter to Microsoft:
To: Steve Ballmer, CEO
Now that Jerry has turned down your $45 billion offer for Yahoo, you are probably feeling flush, wondering what to do with all that cash. So here's a note for your suggestion box: Take a billion or so of those dollars and FIX VISTA, and while you are at it, FIX OFFICE 2007.
As I prepared last week to start my 35-city book tour, I decided it was time for a new laptop. Nothing was wrong with my old HP with XP, but it had 2 years and 200,000 miles on it, so why take chances, right?
I went to Dell.com and picked out a new XPS (fire engine red—way cool). Only problem was, the model I wanted wasn't available with the XP operating system. What to do? I had heard that Vista had problems, but how bad could it be, right? I mean, Vista was built (seemingly over most of the past decade) by one of the most powerful companies on earth. Surely the problems with Vista were being exaggerated.
Wrong. Vista is quite possibly the biggest consumer products disaster in my life time. If only I had hit the technology chat rooms before placing that order. Right after I loaded my new laptop with Office 2003, it crashed. No worries, my savvy tech guy told me. All I needed to do is shell out another $400 for Office 2007 and my new Vista machine would be good to go. Only it wasn't. Power Point still crashes frequently, Outlook crashes and errors are common. The machine often requires 20 minutes to boot up or to shut down.
During the past week I have personally invested no less than 18 hours installing and reinstalling software and patches, talking to tech support people, and cruising information sites. And today—eight days after my travails began—my system still blue-screens an average of twice a day. Vista caused problems in virtually every area of my computing life, from Quick Time (videos suddenly disappeared from my hard disk) to my Blackberry, which no longer syncs.
Now, I know what you are going to say, Steve. I must just be that one in a million guy who gets a lemon from Dell, right? For the vast majority of people, Vista is working fine. Not according my recent Google search for "Vista Sucks." We both know that my horrible experience with Vista is shared far and wide.
I've always stood on the sidelines of the religious war that pits Microsoft against the open source barbarians at the gate. Frankly, I don't give a vermin's posterior about all that. Like most business users, I've been willing to, every couple of years, upgrade software that worked okay with a slightly more bloated version loaded with bells and whistles I neither asked for nor wanted. It was our little secret, Steve. I wrote the checks, and you made my life easy. Until you didn't.
Corporate America is going to push back on this one, Steve, and in a big way. Better stop worrying so much about how to buy Yahoo and start thinking about boring stuff like building products that work. Microsoft has always been able to talk (and spend) its way out of a jam in the past, but this Vista thing is different. Time for a wake up call.