Did Microsoft sell itself short when it listed the recommended requirements for Vista? Would it have been better received had Microsoft originally presented Vista as requiring a powerful hardware platform to run efficiently? Do other manufacturers understate their system requirements?


Back in the day (whenever that was!) when it came time to upgrade users’ software, I would refer to the manufacturer’s listed system requirements. I came to learn that the minimum requirements were usually adequate; but if I always opted for the recommended system requirements, I’d not only have plenty of computing power but I’d also give ourselves some room to grow.

Is it just me, or does it seem that some software manufacturers are grossly understating their system requirements? One of the worst cases I’ve seen is Microsoft Vista’s recommended requirements.

Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Enterprise, and Windows Vista Ultimate:

• 1-gigahertz (GHz) 32-bit (x86) processor or 1-GHz 64-bit (x64) processor

• 1 GB of system memory

• Windows Aero-capable graphics card

• 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)

• 40-GB hard disk that has 15 GB of free hard disk space

• Internal or external DVD drive

• Internet access capability

• Audio output capability

Microsoft Source: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/919183

Compared to my preferred system for running Vista, a computer with Microsoft’s recommended requirements would literally crawl — perhaps even come to a drastic halt with a taxing application. I have to wonder if Microsoft knew this? I suspect they did, but they weighed the pros and cons of desired sales quotas versus the inevitable negative customer feedback. But I can’t imagine a company actually inviting bad publicity, so it’s hard for me to believe they opted to deal with the negative feedback. I also can’t believe they didn’t know they were understating the requirements.

In my opinion, Microsoft didn’t do itself any favors by selling their operating system short in regards to their recommended requirements. I believe that a great majority of the computing-buying public realizes that hardware upgrades will be a never-ending fact of life, and they would have responded much better had Microsoft simply overstated the requirements. They could have even used it to their marketing advantage and presented it in a manner similar to this:

Windows Vista is a powerful new operating system. While it will require a powerful platform to run efficiently, it will also provide some powerful results. When you’re ready for your next hardware change, Windows Vista from Microsoft will be the best choice.

I’ve been running Vista (Ultimate) for about a year, and there’s really nothing to gripe about — well, now that I have it installed on an adequate system, that is. The UAC (User Access Control) was (and is) a mild inconvenience, but it’s really no more than unlocking your door every time you want someone to enter your house. I can certainly see where those benefits outweigh the inconvenience factor. Moreover, all previous versions of Windows were slammed for compromising security. This was one way those complaints were addressed.

And while I was never one to be impressed with eye candy, a lot of people like all the fluff. For example, when I upgraded my users to Vista, I turned off the Aero desktop and the gadget sidebar. Half of them turned it back on, however, even though they were warned about a possible decline in performance. And those lower-end P4s (1.4 to 2.4 GHz) sure did feel the drag.

All-in-all, I like Vista — now that I have it running on the hardware platform that should have been the recommended requirement. I’m certain that if Microsoft had simply stated this up front and marketed it accordingly, much of the negativity surrounding Vista would have never happened.

Another instance of a software manufacturer understating their hardware requirements is Autodesk. First of all, the listed (minimum?) requirements and recommendations on their Web site don’t entirely make sense. In the case of the processor, it seems that they’re listed backward. But I do suppose that a computer running Vista with AutoCAD might require more computing power than one running XP with AutoCAD. It does not say, however, that AutoCAD 2009 will crash and burn on their recommended system if it’s running Vista instead of XP. But I’ll save this gripe for a future blog.