Vista Will Win People Over

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Make no mistake: While there seems to be a backlash building to Windows Vista, over time everyone will make the switch. Microsoft is committed to pushing the PC world to Vista and has said it will bar the sale of WinXP after the end of this year. The software giant also will cut off most support, such as free help over the phone, after 2009–though it will still write security updates and provide online help for some years to come.

But it's other software that will drive most people to Vista. Companies like Adobe, IBM, and Electronic Arts are readying new versions of popular software that will run best–or maybe only–on the new operating system. Vista offers key benefits that can make third-party software run faster, with more stability and added features. An example is the complete rewriting of the system's guts that handle graphics, which promises to make it easier to write better software, such as games, that depend heavily on video or even still pictures.

Microsoft does seem particularly pushy this time around: Barring WinXP sales at year's end is the quickest it has forced a transition to a new Windows version. The company continued selling Windows 95 almost three years after introducing Windows 98. And Windows ME stuck around for a couple of years after WinXP hit the market, though it never really sold well, as few chose to upgrade from Win98.

WinME, in fact, is considered one of Microsoft's stumbles. It was full of bugs and empty of benefits, at least compared with its predecessor. "Windows ME was an ill-conceived operating system," says Michael Cherry, an analyst who tracks Windows for the consulting firm Directions on Microsoft. "But Vista is not Windows ME–it is a much better, well-planned upgrade to XP." So maybe the backlash can force Microsoft to delay the killing of WinXP. But Vista isn't going away.