I predict 2007 will be remembered as a year of confusion where consumers, retailers and distributors are not sure what to buy, stock, support or recommend.
The first major upset will come with the consumer release of Windows Vista in February. There are still thousands of PCs and notebooks loaded with XP sitting in showrooms or warehouses and most of them won't run more than Vista Basic.
But consumers, armed with a complementary Vista Upgrade Coupon, will get Vista and create a support nightmare that retailers have no option but to sort out at their cost.
And which version of Vista will they buy? Most consumer PCs will be shipped with Home Basic because it's the cheapest ($385). But many will want some of the features only found in Media Centre that comes in the Home Premium ($455). Businesses will need the Business version ($565) if they want networking to a domain, and the less cost-sensitive will shell out for Ultimate ($751).
Some purchasing decisions will be tied to the need for certain features. For example, many consumers use Remote Desktop but this will only be available with the Business or Ultimate versions of Vista. If they want Media Centre then Business does not cut it. If you have a notebook, the mobility features you will need are available with Home Premium, but if you are a business user again it will be necessary to go for Ultimate to get the same functionality.
There will also be inevitable confusion when users gets their Vista PCs home and try to install something like Quickbooks 2004 (which is already allergic to IE7), Office 97 or favourite pieces of software they have been running for a long time and need desperately. They may also find their four-year old MFP, fax and scanner won't work due to a lack of drivers. Vista will be confusing if you use a mix of legacy devices.
And while antivirus and Internet suite providers will all have a Vista version, Microsoft will be doing its best to promote its built-in Defender to help control malware. It also has a capable firewall and all roads point to users being more than subtly sold on using Microsoft's OnCare antivirus solution. Symantec and McAfee shareholders should be worried because user apathy will give Microsoft a commanding presence. I don't believe in buying the first version of any product and predict there will be a lot of angst all-round as this new operating system settles in.
There will be more upsets during the year. I am hearing strong rumours that PC users who have bought Intel Macs are not happy in the OS X environment and more Macs are running Windows. The problem with this is that this breaks Apple's "controlled" environment. Apple dealers are simply not trained to cope with the plethora of issues caused by Windows applications and their effect on Apple hardware. The moral of the story is that if you want a Mac then buy it, but if you want Windows then buy a Windows PC.