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Vista Beta 2 Arrives to Screaming Crowds

Vista Beta 2 Arrives To Screaming Crowds
We’ll have to wait a little longer for the real thing, but Microsoft did give us a tease this week with Beta 2 of its forthcoming (someday) Vista operating system. As you might imagine, reviewers, bloggers and other techy types were all over it like white on rice the minute the download was available. This is sort of the post-modern, online version of screaming crowds greeting the Beatles upon their arrival in New York on their first trip to the U.S. in 1964.

No word yet as to whether Steve Ballmer has claimed that Vista is now more popular than any prominent religious figures. In any case, the beta download is plenty popular. (Oh yeah, there are also Office and Longhorn betas available; info here.)

Back in ’64, crowds of teenage girls screamed with delight as the Fab Four first touched American soil. Vista Beta 2 is getting a somewhat cooler reception. Teenage girls hardly seem interested at all. Beyond that, some reviewers have made some fairly brutal comments. The crowd is screaming, all right, but not so much with delight. Gary Krakow at MSNBC tells one horror story of days (yes, days) of installation problems here, proving that love is not all you need to get Vista up and running.

Krakow’s story stands out among the nightmares thus far, but installation and driver problems seem to be the biggest things making beta testers’ computers gently weep. Check out a pretty good wrap-up of several reviews—plus comments from various blog nerds—here.

Well, hey. It’s a beta, right? And betas aren’t supposed to be as reliable and functional as the real thing. So, no big deal. Besides, with no Elvis or Rolling Stones of the OS world to counter this Vista invasion (open source not really being any more popular than, say, Herman’s Hermits), what choice do users have but to take what Microsoft gives them? Then again, maybe it’s not about choice this time. It’s about technological advancement and Microsoft’s ability to execute, the latter of which the company’s investors are already calling into question.

Microsoft says it’s on a revolution with Vista, but it remains to be seen how the OS will change the world. After all, this will ultimately be the de facto operating system for the vast majority of the world’s computers—among other devices—for at least a few years once it comes out. If it’s a dud, then users and the partners who sell to and support them will suffer. And, Microsoft might suffer as well—at least financially, if not competitively should the open source folks ever get their act together and release an enterprise-ready offering.

Pre Beta 2, testers were already getting antsy about the quality of previous Vista builds (as our friend Mary Jo Foley tells us here), and while most reviewers haven’t yet dropped a silver hammer on Beta 2’s head—almost everybody seems to like the new interface—the thus-far lukewarm response to the new build seems to indicate a lack of confidence that Vista is on the right track. However, in fairness, it’s still early. Let’s see what happens as more testers get a look at the new arrival.

Will Vista be the dream OS of tomorrow or make users long for yesterday? If you’ve tested the beta or just want to sound off, write to me at [email protected].

Steve Ballmer’S Worst-Kept Secret
And speaking of Vista, have you heard that it might not come out on time? Steve Ballmer dropped a hint or two (in Tokyo, of all places) that Vista’s release date might slip past early 2007. Really, Steve? Any other non-bombshells you want to drop on us? Care to speculate that the sun might come up tomorrow? Don’t go out on a limb or anything.

Those guys from Gartner who predicted a delayed Vista launch a few weeks back must be feeling pretty smug right now, but Redmond Partner Update told you back in March that once Microsoft missed the end-of-2006 date for getting Vista out, all bets were off as to when it would actually arrive. Count on this, though: Microsoft will have this thing out by April or May of next year at the latest because its fiscal year ends at the end of June, and it can’t afford not to have Vista sales count toward year-end numbers. We could go on, but read more here:

More From Microsoft On Virtualization
Here’s one that might make the folks at VMWare grit their teeth a little harder: Microsoft is officially in their rear-view mirror now in the ultra-hot virtualization space.

Everybody’s talking about virtualization now. Have any good stories or useful tips about it to share? Send your virtual knowledge to my very real e-mail address: [email protected]

Reader Reactions To Best Buy For Business
Monday’s item on Best Buy moving into partners’ territory got people talking—well, writing.

Ray suggests that, just as we said in the newsletter, the retail side of Best Buy can be as much a negative as a positive: “I'm not really going to worry too much about Best Buy's movement into the small business market based completely on my own experience with Best Buy. I went into the store on a Sunday morning and bought two 512 MB Kingston memory chips to upgrade my laptop to 1 GB. I go home, remove the two 256 MB chips and install the two new chips. The packages are sealed, as far as I know, but I'm upgrading my laptop over brunch so I'm not really paying all that much attention. I remove the old chips, install the new chips and reboot the laptop. It reads one new chip as 512 MB and the other as 256 MB. So I assume it's defective and drive back to Best Buy to exchange it. The customer service teenager and then the manager inform me that I've obviously switched the new chip I just bought with one I just removed from my laptop and I'm trying to scam them into giving me another 512 MB chip. Nothing would convince them otherwise and they refused to exchange the defective chip.

"Kingston, being a company that I've relied on for years for memory, listened and exchanged the chip. I have never purchased anything more expensive than a DVD at Best Buy since and only if they have a serious price advantage. I'll spend a couple bucks extra at Barnes & Noble next door rather than give them a dime. I believe that Best Buy can capture a small segment of the market, but I can't see them as a serious player.”

Matt adds that the personal touch counts: “Having been consulting on my own since 1988, I have constantly had to redefine my business model and sell myself. My breakthrough came when I stopped trying to compete based on price. How can I compete on price when a complete system from Best Buy costs less than what I can purchase the parts for? I have to sell the value of getting a system from me rather than Dell or Best Buy that is more than dollars and cents. I even tell people that I have a high-price guarantee. If my price isn't higher than anyone else's, I will raise it 10 percent!

"I may lose one or two jobs to Best Buy for Business, but (customers) will be back when something happens after hours, or when Best Buy sends out four different people to their office and they have to keep explaining the same thing over and over before it gets done. How long are customers going to put up with always seeing someone different who doesn't have a clue personally about their companies?

"One of the things my clients like about me is that I have been doing their work for years and have watched their companies grow, and I know where all the bodies are buried. If they are tempted to use Best Buy for Business, they are going to get tired of having to explain things I would know automatically. I have even had customers who briefly went with someone else who charged $25 per hour less than me. I was very polite, burned no bridges and told them I hoped it worked out for them. A few weeks later, they called me back because I didn't rant on them.

"The second thing is that I will stop recommending Best Buy for purchases of anything dealing with computers and will send them to one of Best Buy's competitors! They may be surprised by how much business they end up losing because most of my clients ask me where they should go to buy computer stuff that I don't sell. We consultants influence a lot more purchases than we sometimes realize. Besides, most people have heard enough horror stories about Best Buy's computer services with home users; I'm not sure they will want to take that risk for their business!”

Excellent work, guys. Thanks for getting back to me. Any more comments on Best Buy out there? Send them to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on May 24, 2006