It’s time to embrace Windows Vista.

Programs will run and hardware will work. There are a handful of exceptions – businesses should still check on business-critical programs. Frequently new hardware drivers will have to be downloaded and program upgrades will have to be purchased. But in general, everything can be made to work.

The experience of using Windows Vista is similar to Windows XP. Almost everyone is able to start using it immediately without confusion, and slowly discover better ways to do familiar tasks – starting programs, finding information, changing display settings.

Vista runs at the same speed as Windows XP. There are many reasons to equip a new computer with a lot of horsepower – a Core 2 Duo processor, 2Gb of RAM, and a 256Mb video card – but not because Vista is inefficient. I’m doing that on both WinXP and Vista systems. People complain about slow startup times with Vista, but testing confirms my real-world experience – Vista and WinXP start in virtually identical times on similar configurations. Here’s one tester’s report – introduction, more details, and conclusions.

In fact, Vista runs as well as WinXP on older computers. I reformatted the hard drive on my aging laptop with 512Mb of RAM and installed Vista, and it runs beautifully, with performance identical to WinXP. Here’s the same tester reporting the same experience. I still don’t want you to upgrade old computers, but for other reasons, not because Vista would run slowly.

(It’s worth noting that everyone is complaining about slow startup times. It’s the most common complaint I hear about WinXP computers, and you can follow the links in this article to complaints about Vista, WinXP, and Mac OSX.)

There are relatively few programs available yet that perform differently on Vista than on WinXP, or that run only on Vista, but this will become an important issue soon. The security and graphics improvements in Vista have barely begun to be tapped, but I expect to see products emerging that will make Vista even more compelling. If you buy Windows XP today, it will seem like a short-sighted decision in a year or so. Here’s an article discussing the future of program development for Vista.

Vista is spectacularly successful. This is widely misreported. Here’s some data about sales compared to previous Windows versions. (Reality check: in its first 30 days on the market, more copies of Vista were sold than Apple’s entire installed base.)

It’s time to make the mental shift to a Windows Vista world. It’s a good place to be. I’m looking forward to supporting my business clients as we make the transition.

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