Unless you've recently emerged from a coma, you know the consumer versions of Microsoft's new Vista operating system have already shipped to the public.
This column is not a review of Windows Vista. I'm not here to tell you about Vista or what's wrong with it.
This article is for those of you who are about to download or purchase Windows Vista and install it on a PC. I'm here to talk you out of it. Just say no Windows Vista -- for now. Here's why.
1. Vista is incomplete
Microsoft is already planning its first service pack and seeking input from users on what to include. Vista probably won't be truly ready for prime time until that first service pack version, possibly later this year.
The hardware and software companies that make compatible products for Vista aren't all ready for the new OS. Many of those companies are scrambling to complete Vista drivers and updates. Most importantly, not all video and sound card companies are ready.
Audio and peripheral maker Creative publishes a list detailing the status of drivers for each of its many products. Most of their Sound Blaster Internal products already have Vista drivers available. Two of them have only a "beta 2" version of the drivers. Three of their older products say "No Development Planned." Most of their cameras and other peripherals have no Vista-specific drivers available.
On the Advanced Micro Devices site, you can find information about Vista readiness of ATI graphics cards (AMD and ATI merged last year). Most are supported by a Catalyst Vista Software Driver, which is "beta," and are plagued by a long list of published "known issues." It also comes with the following warning: "ATI does NOT recommend installing these drivers in systems used for mission critical operations or where productivity of any kind is a concern."
These two companies are on the leading edge of supporting Vista. Their partial readiness for Vista is symptomatic for the larger companies. Many smaller peripheral makers simply have no Vista support at all.
At least OEMs, Alienware and Polywell, are aggressively pushing XP over Vista, because both say graphics and other drivers for Vista aren't quite ready for prime time.
Software, such as the security suites you may have already paid for, may not run on Vista, and some require updates that aren't ready yet.
Trend Micro, Panda, CA and Symantec all have announced that they'll ship updated suites on Tuesday -- just in time for the consumer availability of Vista.
Microsoft claims McAfee will support Vista, but hasn't said when. The company itself has not announced Vista support. And some, but not all, ZoneAlarm products will support Vista by next week. The smaller the company, the longer it will generally take for them to support Vista.
Gaming on Vista -- and Vista's DirectX 10 graphics support -- is awesome for gamers. But that's something you'll be able to fully take advantage of only later. The full gaming potential of DirectX 10 requires three elements -- an operating system, supporting graphics hardware and supporting games. The operating system is ready, the graphics hardware is partly ready, and the games are nowhere. Eventually, Vista will be the ultimate PC gaming platform. But there's simply no reason for gamers to rush out and buy Vista next week.