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Vista Launch, No Apple Event and iPhone Killer Comes Next Week

Vista launched earlier this week and Apple’s PC vs. MAC campaign has already been addressing it with spots showing the PC guy in a hospital gown in need of surgery for Vista. Given that better than 95% of the Windows users who move to Vista will get it with new hardware and that Apple systems that run Vista will also probably require some surgery, this is a little misleading but all is fair in love and advertising. I do get a big kick out of those ads and if you get to see the English ones you’ll find them just as funny.

The Vista Launch was a nice party where the systems running Vista should have been the stars, but weren’t. It really showcased the difference between Apple who just naturally seems to get how to showcase products, even marginal ones, in a way that drives sales. There is some interesting commentary on the launch from a PR firm who doesn’t work for Microsoft.

While the whole Apple vs. Microsoft thing is fun, the reality is that the vast majority of us can’t and probably never will run an Apple PC. Even if a number of us are right and Apple increases share 50% during the Vista transition, that is still only 6% in a Market where Microsoft is virtually everything else. Even Apple seems to recognize this dynamic and their recent name change taking the word “Computer” off suggests they know their major future successes will probably come elsewhere. This may be further emphasized at the Super Bowl where Apple will return and do what is expected to be one of the best ads ever launching: not Leopard and a new PC line, but the iPhone based iPod if what I’m told will happen does.

While I’m looking forward to pointing out the new iPod is a new generation Newton done right and while suggesting that it’s Steve’s admission that John Scully was right all along; the fact is it is both a really cool device and takes Apple further down a path that has been vastly more successful for them than PCs, at least conventional PCs (the new iPhone/iPod lines are hybrids).

Vista’s Future Impact: Microsoft’s Changing Face

Apple’s direction will clearly impact where we go in the future and probably at an ever-increasing rate but the bigger near term impact with be from Vista because it potentially will touch far more people over a shorter period of time and embedded mobile versions will probably have something to do with the future Apple is now targeting as well.

I had a chance to talk to both Toshiba and Electric Rain about their unique approach to getting their products ready for Vista. Both worked closely with Microsoft, for Toshiba there was actually a joint team created to design their market leading Protégé R400 laptop which probably showcases more Vista features than any other currently shipping product, and Electric Rain’s Standout offering became one of the most impressive I’ve seen in what is a brand new class of products as a result.

Both companies in personal interviews described a Microsoft that had been willing to listen and that not only changed Vista in response to their requests but provided insight into their own products which made them better. In talking to other companies who have been made aware of this more successful path, there now appears to be an increasing group of companies who want to work more closely with Microsoft on joint projects that will undoubtedly change for the better based on this closer collaboration.

While the majority of the initial Vista products were either straight ports from XP or hardware based on designs that go back to the 90s, those coming to market using this process will be vastly more attractive, more technically advanced, and more secure than otherwise might have been the case. However, what you’ll see in both hardware and software products that go down this path is a concept you don’t often associate with Microsoft “elegance”.

From little products like the incredibly impressive Yahoo Instant Messenger for Vista, to more complex offerings like the above mentioned Standout, to hardware products like the Toshiba, you’ll see a focus on design that has been lacking for a while in most Windows offerings.

Even though the HP Touchsmart systems weren’t designed with Microsoft, they were designed using this new convention and can also be called “elegant” as a result. Strangely enough I don’t think Office 2007 embodies this yet. They clearly went down their own path and the tool is a strong improvement, but to my eye those that truly embraced Aero, Microsoft’s new interface, just seems more elegant and easier to use. Strangely enough I think Office for the Mac still comes closer to embracing the Apple conventions than Office 2007 does Aero and I also think that it is a better product as a result. However, with the guy running Windows being the guy who used to run Office, I expect this will change when the next version of Office shows up.

Even the keyboard and mouse that Microsoft has designed for Vista are artwork and much closer to something you would expect from Apple. In fact I think they are arguably better than anything Apple has done in that space; granted they aren’t cheap but very nicely done. Check out the Wireless Desktop 8000 and trust me when I say it looks a lot better in person. Stunning work.

So the future that Vista is heralding is one where design actually makes a vastly bigger difference, where our PCs are something to be proud of and not simply something we carry or use to do email and play games.

Moving to Vista

Timing is almost everything in making an OS move and the problems associated with any new OS drop dramatically after the first 90 days. This is because it is over this period that the various support teams come up to speed, the new native applications arrive and are patched, and the hardware vendors finish tuning their drivers and product offerings.

While the experience with any new OS will always be best with new hardware, the biggest improvement over the 90 days will be for those wishing to upgrade PCs that weren’t “Vista Ready”. In particular; if you are planning to upgrade an older machine, wait at least May 1st to do so. Vista Ready PC should update relatively seamlessly depending on the age and compatibility of any loaded applications. Fortunately, not only does Vista warn you that a problem could result from some non-compliant software or hardware, if the problem is really bad it will block the offending and keep it from running in the first place.

Finally, only move when you are ready and when there is a clear advantage to be had. If stuff is working just fine, often it is best not to mess with it.

I’ve been on Vista for some time and love it, but I’m a geek at heart and realize that for most of you later may be much better. Best of luck!

iPhone Killer: Tease

While I had fun with the Prada last week and it will cause Apple some issues, primarily because it hits the market first in the same price range, the real iPhone killer would be a device like this that is smaller, has better performance, and is a fraction of the price. Today I saw such a phone, it launches in 7 days. Touch screen, less than half the price all of the goodies including really strong TV and video, 18 hours of video, yes video, much smaller and about 1/3rd the price. All I could say was Holy Crap we aren’t even really into February yet. This is going to be an incredible year.

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