Thursday, 22 October 2009

Microsoft Tax - It's Dire

Microsoft Windows 7 is upon us. Having been encumbered by Vista on my main laptop, and encouraged by good reviews of Windows 7, I decided to look into the options to upgrade. yes, even if it meant spending some of my own money on a copy of Windows 7. Here's what I found, with some background information to put it all into perspective.

First things first. My laptop runs Windows Vista Ultimate. It is almost exactly year and a half old. I didn't choose the operating system. I looked for the laptop that was at the hardware/performance/price sweet spot for me. It just so happened that the best candidate came with Windows Vista Ultimate pre-installed. I even thought it was good - at the time. Since it seemed I have to pay Microsoft Tax anyway, at least I was getting their "greatest" (quotes intentional).

Unhappily, I used the laptop. Unhappily, as Vista proved to be all the bad things belaboured all over, and then some. No point in going into details. Just google it. I initially considered upgrading (no quotes intentional) to Windows XP, but reading the warranty terms it seemed that it would have invalidated it. So I stuck with Vista until a year has passed, then started looking for alternatives.

Linux, which I have installed on a separate partition anyway, was pretty much out of the question. My beloved wife will have nothing with it, and the laptop was officially "our" main machine. Dual boot was fine, as long as it defaulted to Windows. Around the same time rumours started about Windows 7 being worth a look. I looked, read about it, and decided it just may be worth the wait, and may even be worth some money. I am happy to spend money on software - provided it works.

Finally, the pricing came out, and Amazon had it for around £65 for Windows 7 Home Premium. While this was probably around £20 more than I reasonably thought an upgrade was worth - even not accounting for suffering inflicted by Vista - I thought it may just be within my budget. I never really needed the Ultimate-ness of Windows anyway. Home Premium seemed to have all the stuff I need.

I waited for the Upgrade Advisor and the release day of Windows 7. Better safe than sorry. Let me first check if the laptop was compatible, and whether Microsoft thinks there are areas that I need to be wary of. The tool came decently recommended by the tech news outfit I grew to trust the most. So, I downloaded the thing, let it run, and after a good few minutes (think ten to twenty) it spat out it's verdict.

Yes, I could install Windows 7. I'll probably need to un-install a couple of drivers, and also a couple of minor applications, but they could be safely re-installed after Windows 7. That this procedure was safe and sound was confirmed by other people's experience. Happy days!

But wait! A good look at the report later, and all my hopes got shot down in flames. If I wanted to upgrade - as opposed to install from scratch - I could only do so with Windows 7 Ultimate! Apparently, Vista Ultimate cannot be upgraded to Windows 7 Home Premium without deleting all my data and applications, and then (painstakingly!) re-installing everything! All the applications, all the data, the bloody lot! And how much does Windows 7 Ultimate cost? Bloody £160!

So, in order to spare myself the pain of re-creating my system from scratch - something that can last from 2 days for basic things, to 2 weeks for reaching the set-up I'm used to, and already have! - I need to spend £100 more. If only there was a good reason for it! I mean, even Microsoft will tell you that Windows 7 comes with less features than Vista in the first place. Even Windows 7 Ultimate does not have all the bells and whistles of Vista Ultimate. It doesn't matter if I needed them in the first place. Needing them, or (not) having them, I still have to pay the tax. And I'm not even allowed to decide I want to be rid of more than Microsoft thinks is good for me.

The conclusion? I am sticking with the brain-dead Vista Ultimate (Pain) on my laptop. For Pete's sake, if I sold my laptop second hand, and added £65 I would have spent on Windows 7 Home Premium, I can probably buy a brand new laptop running Windows 7, even if only Home Premium, and that would come with at least a year's warranty, too! Come on! What's this? An industry conspiracy to make people buy new hardware as well as new Microsoft operating system?

I'm not having any of it! And I'll review that decision to have my laptop boot to Windows by default. I wonder if my wife will even notice...