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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Why I’m Installing Vista on All My Computers

Comments (34)

I ran an interesting experiment the past 30 days.  I simultaneously used three different desktop configurations – my traditional Windows XP three monitor setup (at home and work), Mac OS X running on a 30” Cinema HD display (at my house in Keystone), and Vista running on a new Lenovo X60 laptop (wherever I went.)  The surprise winner – at all levels – was Vista running on the Lenovo X60 laptop (with Office 2007.)  It just blew away the other two configurations for performance, ease of use, configurability, and integration with all the stuff I work with (my home network, my office network, my data / music / pictures which live on both, the Internet, all the crap I have stored all over the Internet, stability on all the Internet access points I use (including wireless and EVDO), and all the stuff I play with every day.)

I was completely surprised.  I expected to fall in love with OS X running on a 30” monitor on a smoking hot Mac Pro.  I ran Firefox on each of the machines with Google Browser Sync so for the 33% of the time I spent in a browser, life was basically the same (hmmm – important double message there.) I had Parallels and CrossOver running on the Mac so I could run Windows apps when I needed / wanted to.  I suffered through Entourage for a while (man is that a shitty program – I completely blows my mind that Tasks don’t sync and what’s with the new mail window always being in the top left of the screen), tried Outlook in both Parallels and CrossOver (ok but not great), but spent way too much time in front of the Mac fighting on the margin to get the computer to do what I wanted it to do for me.

In contrast – and surprisingly – Vista and Office 2007 just worked.  Maybe it’s the way my brain is wired, but I was massively more productive on the Vista laptop – with the tiny screen and one window in focus at a time – then I was on the beautiful OS X machine with multiple windows open.  On the Mac, I couldn’t find stuff, things didn’t work quite right, the apps were limited, and when I tried to change the config, I occasionally went down various rabbit holes.  On Vista, things just worked the way I expected them to.  And yes – in addition to the normal Office desktop apps, I use browser-based versions of them (OWA, Gmail, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets.)  The rich desktop still rules (I prefer FeedDemon over everything else, I like to blog offline – I went back to BlogJet because Windows Live Writer had a few nasty bugs, and email / tasks / contacts / calendar – at least for me across my little universe – is way more fun in Outlook than anything else.)

Fortunately, all is not wasted.  I brought my Mac Pro with the 30” monitor back from my place in Keystone this morning and deposited it on Ross’ desk for him to install Vista on it (alongside of OS X).  I’ll continue to play with OS X and experiment with it, especially when I can run a side by side comparison with Vista on the exact same hardware, but I have a gut feeling I know what the outcome will be.

Today, someone forwarded me John Milan’s article on Read/WriteWeb titled “Changing Climates for Microsoft and Google, Desktops and Webs.”  I’m waiting patiently for part two of the article as it’s nicely provocative.  While Google / Apple are much more trendy than Microsoft these days, there’s something deeper going on that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially in your friendly, neighborhood global corporations.  As Amy likes to say “what happened to DOS – it was good enough.”  Call me a heretic.

  • rick gregory

    Brad,

    How familiar are you with OS X? I’ve used XP and OS X and I can do everything in the latter I can in the former. I’m not trying to be a fanboy at all, but if you’re very familiar with Windows and not very with OS X I think the outcome is predictable. I ask because of this passage:

    “On the Mac, I couldn

  • Bruce Wyman

    But, were you ever a switch candidate? You’ve been such a hardcore windows guy for so long as a way of business and molding those tools to your life that you intuit windows, no? In trying out OS X, you didn’t change any of your paradigms about how you might work — your post makes it sound like you went straight to using your preferred Windows apps on OS X. It’s not bad, but you never really tried to switch, so why be surprised at the outcome?

    I’ve had a mac of some flavor for 20 years now, and while I can easily use Windows and have played with Vista, I intuit the mac. When I sit at a Windows machine, I look for the mac ways of doing things. Isn’t that just the inverse of your experience?

    (Disclaimer, I’ll be the first to admit that OS X hasn’t cracked that nugget of getting an app that works *really* well with an Exchange Server (but is that totally Apple’s fault?). My existence is a pleasant hackery that’s good for me, but not for most of the real world.)

  • http://gimps.de Rita loves pictures

    Yes I agree with you, Vista may be good for new hardware, but it is has a very poor performance on old machines, where I prefer to install ubuntu linux.

    Thank you for sharing this story with me !

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    In general, I’m pretty comfortable with OS X. I’m much more comfortable with XP than I am with either OS X or Vista since XP is what I use every day. Granted Vista is more derivative of XP and OS X is a “step to the left”, but this was less “I can’t figure out how to do this” and more “damnit – this is stupid” or “where is that “blah” again?”

  • Damon

    The problem you’re having with the Mac is this: In order for the mac system to work well, you have to be willing to completely abandon all the windows baggage you currently use. No more outlook, no more exchange, no more any of it.

    I did this, and love the results. So much stuff I didin’t need…

    It’s not for everyone, though.

  • Chris

    The claim that Vista runs faster or better on OS X on any machine is a lie if I’ve ever heard one. Also, how well a Windows user adapts to OS X is entirely up to them. The OS itself will do anything and everything the user tells it to do. It is up to them to unlock it’s true power. Don’t let your ignorance keep you from a great thing.

  • http://www.sysconfig.org Aaron Mills

    Interesting thoughts. I recently switched to a Mac at work. While I agree with some of your complaints (i.e. the *abysmal* mail support in OSX), I suspect this all a question of user preference. I use the keyboard for about 90% of my work, and I find Mac just makes that system easier – particularly with the extremely powerful combination of AppleScript and Quicksilver. (Side note: A Mac without Quicksilver is like a Ferrari without gasoline.)

  • http://www.derekscruggs.com Derek Scruggs

    I switched to the Mac about 2.5 months ago and it was painful. Now I’m happy with it, but its very hard to work on both platforms equally well. I still do some things on Windows, but now it’s the frustrating platform to me, not Mac.

    Parallels is cool as a science experiment, but IMO it’s not stable enough to keep running the background with your XP apps at the ready, and it’s too slow to start it from scratch every time.

    I still haven’t found a good replacement for Quicken on Windows. The Mac version is a serious step backward.

  • http://bombaycurry.blogspot.com RYK

    I have always maintained that MS really knows how to build GUI and engineer stuff solid. I have an ipod…its a total disappointment when it comes to sync with the PC…I’ve used the Mac and its not got the simplicity of Windows…The same problem now with Gmail, its GUI is getting harrowing…I’m rooting that solid engineering and GUI prowess of MS will keep get them ahead once again

  • Don Shade

    My switch to OSX was painful for the first five minutes. Having gone Mac, I thought I would never go back. Now, I’m willing to give Vista a chance. I gotta have Unix, however. It’s a fever. And cygwin is not the right prescription. What’s your experience with terminal shells on Vista?

  • won

    “A Mac without Quicksilver is like a Ferrari without gasoline”.

    Same goes for LaunchBar

  • mdporter

    I agree that Entourage isn’t a great email program. If you are stuck with Exchange though, it is the best mac option without running Parallels.

    Aaron Mills says that mail support under OS X is “abysmal” which is just not true. Apple’s Mail program is excellent, and there are other very nice mail clients too. These are excellent alternatives if you don’t need 100% Exchange support and compatibility.

    Also, with Vista, MS has changed the gui and moved things around. I’ve used XP, 2000, even 98 and 95 for a long time, and I did not feel “at home” on Vista, and still don’t. I’m trying to give the new gui a chance, but every day I just want to switch it to “classic mode” so I can get on with my testing.

  • http://www.domainmn.com Craig

    Brad,
    I own a 17 inch Powerbook and a couple XP machines. About 3 months ago, I owned a 30 inch Mac display and desktop. They have been eBay-ed. I love Mac OS and Windows. But, my opinion is the Mac OS is superior in the notebook environment and XP is in desktops. My main reason is the user experience and that no matter the configuration, the tracking of the mouseis superior with Windows XP desktop.

    If you haven’t tried a Macbook Pro, give it a shot. If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts. After reading your review, I am anxiously awaiting Vista.

    Best regards,
    Craig

  • Robert Boylin

    It’s no longer interesting to Mac users what someone with no real interest or knowledge wants to test the platform for the benefit of his PC followers. Is it interesting how an enthusiast of Microsoft’s platform, who get’s his income from his PC using readers, finds his “test” results in the PC OS winning? There are real reasons behind Mac enthusiasts remaining so loyal and supportive. You rarely find such loyalty in the PC universe, save for those who make a living off of it’s support. Macs certainly aren’t the appropriate platform for every user. It certainly isn’t for those who’s living depends on PC users!

  • Jarod

    Get real! This article is a crock. you have to be a complete bloody moron to take vista over osx when everything about that garbage is a clear cheap imitation of the original os x. Then again, if you were “paid” to say that, it may make more sense. Either way, there’s no money in the world that would make me waste one minute of my life on microshit garbage.

  • DB

    Any Mac user who knows what’s up doesn’t use Entourage: they use either Apple Mail or Thunderbird. The fact that you spent a bunch of time wrestling with the most non-standard non-respected email app for the Mac just shows that you are not “comfortable” enough yet and that your Mac experience is being biased by PC expectations.

    The first PC bias expectation that you should turn on its head in order to have a smooth experience on the Mac is the automatic assumption that Microsoft software is a good default choice. Mac users almost universally will avoid Microsoft software unless they have little choice. So we’ll hold our noses and boot up MS Word and MS Powerpoint to be file-format compatible, but few of us will touch Entourage because the alternatives are way better.

    As for your ‘where is that *what* again’ feeling, this is also classic PC training bias. Obviously, you found the *what* the first time. Why didn’t you find it the second time? Because you weren’t used to it. On the PC you are used to it because you’ve done it 100 times as opposed to 1 or 2. Your muscles probably even know where it is without you thinking about it. Be honest and admit this skills bias. It also happens to us Mac users when we sit at PCs. How long do you think it takes us to figure out that we need to right click on something and choose ‘Properties’? This is not a conventional Mac way to store configuration and even if a Mac user figures it out once, it is likely that the next time they try to do it, they won’t remember because it’s a type of design thinking that is foreign to the Mac. It would be unfair of me to conclude that the ‘properties’ contextual menu is inferior, simply because it takes me a while to find it because I am unused to ever looking for anything in a ‘properties’ menu in any app.

    Your conclusions are unfair in exactly the same way.

  • http://www.unsanity.org Rosyna

    I think the larger problem is that many people try to fit OS X into the Windows mold. They try to use OS X just like they use Windows and it just isn’t possible. When people attempt this it often is just like shaving against the grain and ends up a bloody mess.

  • bilogic

    Brad,

    Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Management Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Mmm. Anyway please send me your MacOS X machine. I would love to put it for good use….

  • bill

    brad,

    thanks for the OS review. I am an Outlook addict as well and have been considering adding an OSX machine to my stable. I bought a macbook for my non-computer-owning sister and the few days I spent setting it up for her (getting her email going, configuring the browser, etc…) were frustrating.

    While hipness and cool factor are nice, the coolest thing is productivity. It sounds as if you have that with MSFT products.

  • http://nabeel.typepad.com Nabeel Hyatt

    I think (not surprisingly) you all are jumping down his throat a little too quickly.

    I just did the same thing Brad did, and Mac came up a winner in my case. This despite the fact that I have been a hardcore Wintel user since DOS, and never lasted more than a month on a Mac. I intuit Windows, but that didn’t stop me so I don’t think it would have stopped Brad.

    I think the key difference is I abandoned Exchange. There simply is no great way to interact with Exchange on a Mac, and no great benefit in my book either. To go Mac you should ditch Exchange and use POP to any of the other wonderful mail clients out there (Gmail in my case).

    It’s too big a hurdle.

  • http://www.jasbone.com Ross Carlson

    Ok so I just have to chime in on all this, as I’m the one that’s really setting this all up for Brad ;-)

    It amazes me how pissed the Mac guys get when anyone tries to say something else is better. These comments are all proof of it. Let me point out a few things:

    - Vista IS prettier than OS X. Period. Sorry if you disagree, this isn’t my opinion, this is fact :-) I don’t care if Microsoft “stole” ideas or anything else from Apple – IT LOOKS BETTER.

    - Vista IS at least as fast as OS X on the same hardware. I’ve done it – I’ve timed it – while OS X boots a lot faster than Vista if you side-by-side them in real-world apps you’ll see that Vista preforms very well.

    - Brad is a BUSINESS user. It seems everyone is forgetting this. He doesn’t care about being cool (he’s Brad – he IS cool!), he doesn’t care about “sticking it to the man” – he just cares about getting his work done as quickly as he can.

    - There are NO good corporate mail applications on OS X – Period. Entourage sucks. Mac Mail sucks. Evolution ported to OS X just doesn’t work. You guys fail to understand having less with a OS X app doesn’t make it better to Brad – it makes it worse. Brad MUST have full Exchange sync with his mail client. Hell even his phone can do that!

    - I can’t manage OS X like I can Windows. I can’t automate pushing patches, virus updates, drive mappings, etc. It’s a very “stand alone” operating system that doesn’t play well on a corporate network. And please don’t give me the “it doesn’t work on a Windows network”. Show me how you can do all that you can do with Windows in an all OS X network. You can’t. There is NO Apple directory services, group policies, login scripts, etc, etc, etc. All the things that make OS X win on the corporate desktop.

    - There are a billion more apps for Windows, we all know that. Remember Brad, as a business user, wants to use what is easiest for him – that means being able to interact with everyone else he works with – and guess what they use Windows. Why does Windows have such huge market penetration? Because Microsoft is evil? Well maybe a tiny bit – but it’s because it works with EVERYTHING. OS X does not.

    There is one big thing being left out here – Linux. I’m trying to get Brad to play with Ubuntu sometime to give that a comparison to Vista. While Vista looks a lot better there are many great things happening in Linux – and he would be able to “work” in Linux (since Evolution FULLY supports Exchange).

    Oh, and please don’t give me the “you don’t know OS X” crap. I run it every day on my laptop just to learn it. I’ve been doing that for 3 months now to be able to help Brad if he decided to go OS X.

    Just my 2 cents ;-)

  • Merredith

    I use both Macs and PCs as well, having spent my early days in TV with Macs, and later in businesses with PCs. We just retired a Mac, in fact — it died of old age. There are some things each is dismal. Mac-ites have quite a bit invested in hating Microsoft — fine — but I’m with Brad on this one, if it works, it works, there’s no point hating it just because it’s MSFT. I do worry about Vista’s system requirements though — they’re the equivalent of the fashion world deciding that everyone must ditch their old wardrobe and ante up for expensive new outfits. More amusing are the partisan debates — and so far this is just a sampling. For in-depth discussion of the merits of MSFT vs. Apple operating systems, check out the occasionally erudite and wise, often snipey and childish discussions on David Pogue’s(NYTimes) blog, http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/08/10/10pogue-email/

  • rick gregory

    Wow, Ross, you do NOT present a good face for Brad. Let me give you a clue – your opinion of the UI of Vista vs mac isn’t fact, it’s opinion. And unqualified opinion unless you are a UI/UX designer.

    You can do many of the things you outline above on a Mac. But if a baseline requirement for Brad was 100% Exchange support I would have told him not to waste his time – it’s not there. And, frankly, that is what you should have done instead of wasting his time.

    I use XP and OS X. The lesson, which ANYONE with a modicum of sense should know by now, is to buy the product or service solves the problem you have. Sounds like Vista does that for Brad.

  • http://www.wisloff.com/ Fredrik H. Wisloeff

    To prevent all those open apps you can try SpiritedAway – a neat little utility that automatically hides unactive apps. And this is one of the things I love about the mac, so many simple and cool apps.

  • Mike Frye

    My work computer needed to be scratched, so I figured its a great time to upgrade it to Vista/Office 07… For about 2 hours I thought I was a genius, but now that feeling is gone….

    I just want to wish you great luck! Vista is very, very nice, but it reallllllllly needs some 2nd gen device drivers. I forgot what it was like to be on the “bleeding edge”

    Mike

  • Blake Reid

    Rick, agree. The UI issue is a subjective one to a layman on the subject (though I’ll say that having trained people on both Windows and Mac that OS X is about 100% more intuitive to pick up – not without its quirks, though).

    About directory services, ever heard of OS X Server? Not that it’s a paneca but hey, it exists. Patch management, group policies and all. And ‘pushing virus updates’? Heh. That’s not a feature you’d want to tout if you were running Macs.

    I’ve heard just as many unscientific benchmarks claiming that OS X boots faster than Windows. I’m willing to call that a draw, but I’ve heard way fewer complaints of it not working at all – a la Mike.

    And pushing Windows because it ‘just works’ and recommending Linux in the same breath? That nearly made my head explode.

    Ross, I hate to say it, but you don’t know OS X – I don’t know Windows, but I won’t play up installing it on my laptop as a legitimate experiment to see if it will integrate well with our corporate network. If I ever jump into the hell of administering an Exchange server, I’ll be sure and give you a call! :)

    P.S. – You are right about Entourage sucking as the database format it uses gets regularly corrupted and requires hours of rebuilds. Zero similar issues with Apple Mail. If the advertised integration of Address Book, iCal and Mail along with iCal Server and Time Machine in OS X Leopard works as planned, our office will happily be ditching Entourage for good. And it won’t be to stick it to the man, it’ll be a smart business decision. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, ya know?

  • http://www.slog.me.uk/ Mike Peter Reed

    I note the opinion piece does not state what version of Windows Vista was installed.

    “In contrast – and surprisingly – Vista and Office 2007 just worked.”

    This guy is easily surprised, and lost ALL credibility with me right there.

    I mean, after 2007 versions you’d expect something to work properly, right?!

    Sure, “good enough” is good enough. Unless you are one of the elite.

  • http://onkarjoshi.wordpress.com/ Onkar Joshi

    Just the point I make in my post on Microsoft & Monopoly (http://onkarjoshi.wordpress.com/2006/09/17/microsoft-monopoly/).

    How long have you used Vista compared to OS X? You are probably conditioned to believe that ‘the Vista way’ is ‘the right way’.

  • Nordik

    Its funny how this type of extended post seem to have been writen by microsoft personel them selves :)

    I work with both OSX and Vista and let me say… There is nothing vista does that mac wasnt doing 3 years ago!

    And this aqua themes and other graphic elements… are such an imitation (rip off) Mac that… I would be embarrassed to say i have been working 6 years with over 2000 programers to accomplish a imitation that still doesnt work as good :)

    And im comparing it to OSX couple years ago… not worth comparing it to leppard.

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Nordik – I am not, never have been, and expect I never will be a Microsoft employee. My biggest challenge with the Mac seems to be dealing with an Exchange server (which – at least right now – I can’t eliminate from my reality.) If Apple addressed this directly with their Mail client, the world would be a better place. Relying on Entourage for this unfortunately is a non-starter.

  • Terry

    I’ve been a Mac user since 1984. Except for a four or five year period during the mid-90′s when the OS got creaky and the company was lost. OS X brought me back. As a Systems Engineer i use or have used just about everything. But I can’t wait to use my Mac at home no matter how well I know XP. In fact i can’t stand using XP day to day. Its garbage as far as I’m concerned. But, the really surprising thing is I put Vista on a spare laptop and I’m actually kind of liking it…

  • Oleg Andreev

    It is predictable result for guy expecting to run Outlook on OS X. Mac OS X fits your tasks well (as well as Windows or any other operating system) if you are not going to cheat it every time. If you have to cheat more than normally use (e.g. running lovely Outlook thru virtual machine), such OS is not for you.

    I moved to Mac after 7 years on windows and definitely happy with standard Mail client (i worked with outlook, thunderbird, light opera mail, web-variants), standard calendar and multimedia stuff. I also use Keynote and Pages, Opera, Firefox, Flash, Photoshop, Textmate, and very rarely MS Office. I haven’t run parallels or bootcamp for a 5 months already. Mac basically suits me, but not you.

    But there is more of that. There are some opinions, that apple software knows better what you need, so you have to, say, throw away your enterprisey outlook and office and use nice and lean “mac-style” software. It is 50% bullshit, but 50% true. For instance, I clearely see great power of Excel, but don’t see any goodness in MS Word or Outlook.

  • Kenneth Otterlei

    First off I am a Norwegian, so pardon my English.
    I am reading about the os in Mac and I have to say, I absolutely feel in love with it.

    I have been a pc user with Microsoft all my life, and I find it confusing in so many many ways or correction, I really hate to go through sub menus up and down to do simple tasks.

    Also i have to sort everything manually for albums and so on.
    Word is for me a nightmare, maybe because im not an advanced user, but I want to be able to be one.
    Why should I use windows when the os in Mac makes me easily understand and perform graphic tasks in a mush easier way?

    I don’t have to browse menus up and down, but simply use the brilliant setup that makes it all happen automatically.
    Also the presentation of this crisp software presented on the screen is a big winner.

    So for a limited computer skilled person it is much better, and it would enable me to be more productive.

    It took me 60 min to understand all of this.

    So for me the os of Mac is supreme.
    However, because I had to to get the new imac with its glossy screen and its less then impressive graphic card made me halt to a full stop!

    You cant use Mac os on a pc : (
    I loved the design, the beautiful silence, and even it’s not an impressive computer with regard of hardware it is good enough.

    But when i intend to use it for graphic and I also want to be abele to play the new games every so often, it kills all hope.

    I’ll have to face it, you get pc`s that outflank the new imac in every way.
    Still I would have gone for it only for the os, if it had a just a tiny better graphics card.

    But, if they upgrade this i would bee a mac user in a heartbeet.

    Best regards to all of you.
    Kenneth Otterlei

  • http://windows7.iyogi.net Olivia Hanks

    You should also try to install Windows 7. i am sure you will love windows 7.

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