A few months back, I upgraded to a new convertible Tablet PC – the Lenovo X61T – replacing my workhorse tablet, the Toshiba M200. I had the M200 for three years, the longest that I’ve used any laptop. As the M200 approached the end of its useful life, I seriously considered migrating to a new Intel-based MacBook. The key factor that kept me from making the switch was the lack of inking capabilities on Macs. I wasn’t an early adopter of tablets, but by the time the M200 arrived, the technology was stable enough to be useful on a regular basis. The practicality and usefulness of a tablet led me to buy the Lenovo. Buying the Lenovo wasn’t a mistake, but choosing Windows Vista certainly was.
Before I slam Vista outright, I want to recognize how well Microsoft integrated the tablet interface into Vista. Inking is at the core of the operating system, best I can tell, as reflected in the omnipresent Tablet PC Input Panel. Inking definitely feels more natural in Vista than it did on XP. Unfortunately, the instability of Vista, along with odd behavioral issues have made Vista increasingly difficult to deal with. Quite a bit has already been written about Vista’s quirks, so I won’t devote much space to those issues here. However, I can categorize my disappointments with Vista in two key areas, productivity and stability.
First, productivity. Maybe it’s me, but I think most people assume full version upgrades of software should drive greater productivity by either adding a substantial set of new features or simplifying processes through better automation or functionality. Vista fails on all these fronts; in fact it feels more and more like a dot release of XP. To be sure there are a few features that have made me productive, but this has been offset by a loss of productivity on other features. All in all, I don’t see the vast improvement that was promised.
Second, stability. Stability has never been a calling card of Microsoft operating systems. With the release of Vista, Microsoft promised it’s most stable operating system ever. Here too, I don’t see the improvements. Instead Vista has introduced some of the most annoying things I’ve ever seen in an operating system. For example, when docking or undocking my Lenovo, both the laptop screen and the attached external monitor go through a random screen flicker/rotation sequence that varies everytime I dock/undock. Rumor has it that the service pack that Microsoft is due to release will resolve this…I’m not betting on it. In the last few days I’ve started to get random lockups while working on the Lenovo. That is an absolute non-starter for a workhorse PC that I rely on to do all of my work.
I’m seriously considering ‘downgrading’ the Lenovo back to XP. That isn’t an optimal solution, but XP has gone through two service pack releases, with another apparently on the way. Those patches did make XP more stable, and I’d rather wait for a similar set of patches to be released for Vista before returning to it. Vista’s Aero Glass look is slick, but that alone won’t keep me on a system that I can’t rely on.
I don’t plan to replace the Lenovo anytime soon, but I doubt that I’ll keep this machine for three years like the M200. I am nearly certain that my next machine will be one of those Intel powered Apple Macs. Yes, I know that Apple’s laptops have issues of their own, but the operating system has proven to be more reliable than Windows. There is the added attraction of running both OSs on the MacBooks, another nice feature. Now if Apple could bring some of that touch technology from the iPhone to their laptops, we’d have the optimal solution.