I was browsing through some Windows Vista screenshots, and this one was particularly interesting. It was the new Windows Performance Rating tool. First of all, I think a tool like this is a great idea. It gives people a fairly simple way of figuring out if their computer is up to the task of running Windows, and if not, where they should best spend their money on upgrades.
The part about this screenshot though is, presuming the data displayed are real, it basically says that an Athlon XP1800 (supposed equivalent to a Pentium 4 running at 1.8Ghz) with a gigabyte of RAM is underpowered for Vista. Without making any judgements on that fact (I’m sure plenty of blogs will), the reality is that using Vista won’t mean “pop in a CD and upgrade from XP” so much as it will mean “time to go shopping for a new computer.” I know at this point I wouldn’t spend a few hundred dollars on memory and video card upgrades… never mind a CPU (which generally means motherboard too). It’s just “buy a new computer” time.
From looking at the screenshots, Vista looks pretty sexy. Joe Average may not need it, but it’s probably sexy enough that he’s going to want it and all the eye candy that comes with it. Assuming they can make Joe Average aware that he can’t run Vista on his 2-year old Dell, Joe Average is going to have to go computer shopping.
What I’m interested to see is, now that consumers are going to have to buy boxes (hardware with software installed) as opposed to just CDs (software), how this really puts Apple and Microsoft at a more common playing field. Apple sells boxes with the OS installed, and so does Dell, HP, etc. Joe average is about to invest some real money to get a hot new computer with lots of flash. It turns out, OSX has a lot of flash too… and it also has flashy hardware to match. Will Joe consumer want a MacMini next to his monitor, or a black and grey, slightly more attractive than the old-beige box, Dell Dimension PC. Or, perhaps he’ll be laptop shopping and comparing the MacBookPro against one of a million different Windows laptop options.
I think it will be interesting. I can see Mac gaining some ground here. They are incredibly design focused, and if someone is out computer shopping, perhaps for the first time in a long time, I can see them giving Macs a real hard look. Unlike switching to Linux, there are far fewer issues with software and hardware compatibility if one were to switch to a Mac. If you look at the list of top10 apps that people want on Linux but aren’t available, a full 8 of them are available for the Mac (exceptions being Autocad and Visio – each of which probably has a second-rate clone). So, the barrier to entry is not nearly as high.
I know it’s something I’ve been considering. When you have to step back and buy anew, it gives you the opportunity to re-survey the landscape.