Where’s the “Hasta la Vista” ?

R has got a new machine running Vista Pro. The machine is a big improvement on her venerable old laptop and she’s delighted that for once she’s the one with the fancy new toy as I seem to get one every other week. I’m a geek (see earlier post) so I can’t help it.
Now you’ll have heard a lot about Vista if you’re in any way techie but here’s my first impressions.
It looks a lot slicker. The transparent windows do make everything look a lot cooler. For once my PC can favourably compare with a Mac in terms of 80% of the UI. However, I can’t help but wonder if this is because 80% of the UI looks so damn Mac-like? It’s a thought but I’m not alone here.
It’s not all fun & games. The first problem I notice is that having run it on two machines now I’ve found that it really really needs 2GB of RAM to provide speedy performance. Otherwise you spend too much time looking around at the pretty performance bar (which actually isn’t, more on this later). The second is that the UI is genuinely confusing for XP and Win2k users. It’s not just R, I got to observe a whole bunch of users trying to come to grips with the new layout. I’d argue it’s better but it’s certainly different. PC users have essentially gotten a lot of “same” from microsoft in terms of start menu, file menu’s, explorer etc. They were all thrown by “different”. Now back to the performance bar which is actually a glorified strobing hourglass. A feature I hated on the Mac as I really want a performance bar to tell me how long more I’m going to have to wait for whatever OS trickery is going on to finish.
The third problem is poor UI design in places. Many have written about the shutdown menu including Joel Spolsky & one of it’s original authors Moishe Lettvin. It’s woeful. Absolutely staggering that a company with Microsoft’s resources could produce something so bad and incredible it took 24 people to do it. I don’t hold with Joel’s opinion that it’s due to the ability of new Microsofties. I think it’s more to do with a management structure of dense inscrutability. I witnessed R & chums spend at least 15 minutes trying to figure out how to turn the thing off. That was with prompting. It’s not the only weakness with UI consistency being a major failing across the board. I reckon this is down to the difficulties in porting OfficeOS to any new version of Windows. Office has become so big, bloated and unwieldy to maintain that updating it’s UI to match the new Aero UI engine must have been a nightmare. So much so that it’s only half done.
On the plus points, it’s more stable, more appealing and easier to manage than previous versions of Windows. If Microsoft’s objective was to justify the upgrade then they’ve definitely succeeded. However, if their objective was to better OS X then they haven’t. It’s still the more consistent and unobtrusive UI.