Friday, December 15, 2006

Singapore may not jump with the big jump

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not biased towards Apple or the Macintosh. Yes, I do love them, but not to the extent that I take a one-sided view of matters. I merely support the corporation which is going in the right direction, and does well. And all these while it has been Apple.

But I’m beginning to favour Microsoft now. So I shall make zero mention about Macs in this post.

We all should know by now that from Windows Vista to XP (for experience), it is a remarkably great jump, in terms of UI, hardware and how the computer functions.

In the previous post I said it was a solid, quality, top-notch OS. This is true, but there are still areas of improvement, such as the limited disk backup utility, the needless Windows Meeting Space and the widely hated anti-piracy methods Microsoft adopts, in which your whole system except for the Internet browser disables if you fail to validate your copy of Vista.

All these minor flaws can be easily read up on the net, so I shall not go into them. Go Google them yourself.

What I want to discuss here today is how Singapore, as a nation and as an economic-driven country, will come to accept this new OS.

Windows Vista requires a shocking amount of hardware to fully experience the Vista experience, including 3D flip and Aero. To start off, you need (minimum) a 1GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, DirectX 9-class GPU, 128 MB of graphics memory, 40 GB hard disk and a DVD-ROM drive.

That’s quite a heavy basic requirement for an operating system. This is not the end. If you want your system to work fast, or if you are a hardcore gamer, or if you use processor-intensive software like video editing and rendering, then you would be a fool if you believe that all those stated above are sufficient to work smoothly.

For example, 1 GB RAM is just about the least you should have. I recommend 1.5 to 2 GB. 40 GB HDD is ridiculously small. Aim for at least a 120 GB. 128 MB of graphics memory is too minimal too. Aim for at least a 256 MB. Of course I’m talking about configuring a quick speedy machine here.

What does this imply? Prices of computers will go up. And it does not help when RAM prices are high now. You pay more for hardware. Families with lesser income can bid farewell to using Vista Ultimate. As a result, people may use the cheaper Vista Home Basic or even Vista Starter editions instead, which does not fully deliver what Vista is capable of.

The average cost of a PC running Vista Home Premium would cost (I estimate) around $2,300. That’s expensive, considering that this price today buys you a high end machine.

But more importantly, moving away from the home user, let us consider the ramifications of high hardware requirements on businesses, companies and educational institutions.

To begin with, schools these days are all equipped with a multitude of PCs. But most of the time, these computers are low-end to mid-range computers for normal document processing usage and web surfing. Most have integrated graphics, a small 40 GB HDD and are commonly powered by either AMD or Intel Pentium 4 chips. RAM seldom goes beyond the 1 GB mark, normally it has only 256 MB to 512 MB.

That means that MOE has to dig deep into their pockets to upgrade these computers with either completely new CPUs, or with a hardware upgrade.

Hence, considering the number of schools and the number of PCs, I don’t expect a sudden all-at-one-shot upgrade to Vista for all institutions. Maybe a selected few good PCs in every school can get the privilege to first upgrade (most likely for the IT club). I would expect a gradual abandoning of XP to a general acceptance of Vista over the course of 1 to 2 years.

This is partly because as with any new release, people will be skeptical about performance and reliability issues and whether there really is a need to upgrade. There will be the initial 6 months to 1 year debugging and patching after public worldwide use, and since this has been the biggest jump in-between two operating systems, Vista demands faith, trust and a whole lot of investment and cash on big companies/organisation to switch from XP. Sadly, this rarely happens.

This is the major underlying problem with the great jump. Businesses are plunged into a state of confusion, unsure if they should be adventurous and take the first step forward to purchase new systems, or if they should just remain status-quo and abide by the older systems, which is the safer alternative. We all find solace in familarity, don't we?

For me, this is my view: if there are enough resources, money, and time to transfer all information to the new platform, do it. Do not hesitate, because Vista will deliver new and important features set to increase productivity. If not, XP will do just fine, as it has been with us for 5 years.

Will Singapore jump with the big OS jump? We shall wait and observe.

No comments: