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Quot If It Aint Broke Quot

I have to admit that I had a bit of a wry chuckle after reading that Intel, one of Microsoft's most staunch allies, decided to eschew a corporation-wide upgrade to Windows Vista. For the longest time, I had nurtured well-reasoned suspicions that the two biggest players in town controlling the world of personal and corporate computing were in bed together. Some pundits, in fact, have resorted to calling their relationship "WinTel," the portmanteau signifying the union of Microsoft's massive power in dictating the direction of software development and Intel's dominating presence in the microprocessor and motherboard markets.

Sometimes, the closeness of the two companies' relationship makes it a little difficult to discern which one was the chicken, and which one was the egg, when it came to the superb technological advances we enthusiasts take for granted these days. Did super software inspire hyped-up hardware? Or did the hardcore hardware's performance surpluses force the software developers to raise their game just to most efficiently use the machinery?

In the case of Microsoft's Vista, based on everything I've read about and seen on a limited basis (I don't run any version of this OS because I will not pay for something I don't need; WinXP works perfectly well for me right now), the hardware requirements floor is elevated significantly compared to older OSes. This, of course, assumes you want your system to run reasonably well. I'm aware that virtually any OS can run on even 256MB of RAM, but who wants a system that's dog-slow..?

To run Vista optimally, you'll need a modern graphics card, at least 2GBs of RAM (I'd theorize DDR2 is preferred because of the greater bandwidth potential compared to DDR), and a modern CPU (K8 and above for AMD, Pentium 4 and Core 2 ). Vista is a classic example of something that rewards the "more is better" philosophy (well, WinXP does too, but to a far smaller degree).

A mere six months separated the market introductions of both Intel's now-dominant and powerful Core 2 line of CPUs and Microsoft's latest OS, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the two product lines are meant for each other for optimum operation and maximum user enjoyment. I have no doubts whatsoever that both companies worked closely with each other in co-development of both Core 2 and Vista, as they've been rumored to have been doing ever since they each established themselves as the dominant parties in their respective spheres.

Intel's declaration shows us several things, I think. First, it shows that the corporate attitude towards Vista is very cold. Corporations, by nature, tend to be the most conservative market sector when it comes to adopting new software packages. The reason for this is they don't want to break something that works perfectly well. Older OSes and software have got their bugs ironed out (one would hope) and would therefore have much lower failure rates and potential for down time. You really do take chances when adopting new software, and this is even more accentuated when it comes to new operating systems since this is the central piece of software (only the motherboard BIOS is more essential, actually). Corporations don't want to stop normal operations for any reason, and changing over to brand new systems will always be disruptive, even with the best contingency plans in place.

Another thing Intel's corporate rejection of Vista shows us is that Vista, for all its supposed advances and advantages over previous generations of Windows, simply isn't a big enough step forward given the steep price of admission. Consumer-market licenses are outrageously expensive; even given corporate volume discounts, adopting a whole new operating system means that you will be committing a huge chunk of money on something that is basically unproven compared to a known quantity. Windows NT-based operating systems have the significant advantage of being a mature software platform; IT departments have been working with these operating systems and all the associated software for years, and corporations simply don't have the time nor inclination to invest in road-testing a new operating system. They leave all the beta-testing to PC enthusiasts who want the latest as soon as it comes to market.

Lastly, Intel's rejection of Vista shows us that the decision is likely fueled partly at least by Microsoft's own long-term strategy, specifically Redmond's announcement that Windows 7 is scheduled for release in early 2010. Allied with Microsoft's own declarations that support for WinXP will not cease until April 2014, this gives Intel (and other corporations) a good four-year window after Windows 7's release before they are forced to switch over to a new Microsoft-based operating system. I am convinced that this made the decision to reject Vista even easier.

This piece is not meant to bash Windows Vista. Rather, it is a personal analysis of Intel's corporate policy of rejecting Microsoft's latest as well as an interpretation of corporate attitudes and outlooks. I find it fascinating how this little story exemplifies Aesop's fable, "The Tortoise and The Hare" very well.

I think that we PC enthusiasts actually can learn much from Intel's decision. Sometimes, conservatism is a wiser move than a reckless pursuit of performance. Corporations don't get huge by accident; they make the right moves at the right time.

If it ain't broke, why fix it?


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