Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Who Benefitted the Most from the Vista Capable Program?

Ars Technica has a wonderfully insightful piece about the Vista Capable lawsuit, and the ramifications of the $1.5B number that the plaintiffs have been floating around in the case. if you haven’t read it yet, please do so, as I agree with their points, and it is the jumping-off point for what I am about to discuss.

First off, I want to point out that the lawsuit itself is totally bogus. While it is very good that some of the information came to light, I don’t personally think it has any merit whatsoever, and it is just an attempt to pry money from Microsoft’s hands for no good reason. “Capable” means that it can run Vista, which computers that were so labeled were technically capable of. It did not say “capable of running all editions of Vista,” so any assumption on the consumer’s part, without reading the fine print, is the consumer’s fault. Caveat Emptor.

I admit that the program was confusing, but any consumer taking more than 10 seconds to look at it could have figured it out. Also, it’s not like these computers were not capable of running Home Premium or Ultimate, it’s just that a) you wouldn’t get Aero, and b) you wouldn’t get that great of an experience due to lack of performance. Hey, I ran Windows 95 on a 486 with 4MB RAM. It was possible, just not a good idea.

Secondly, having a couple years to look back on the whole thing, for all the bellyaching HP did about it, I think the effort they put in benefitted them in the end. Who is the top selling computer maker in the last 2 years? HP. It’s because they make a better overall product (regardless of how much crap they add to it, but I’ve ranted about that enough already (with another one coming soon).

In my first post on the subject, I talked about how an HP exec bristled when I even mentioned WinSAT in a discussion. Regardless of his reaction, my point about WinSAT was (and is) still valid. The OEMs know what hardware produces which WinSAT score. i don’t understand why OEMs aren’t shipping more balanced machines. Most PCs that ship today come with wildly schizophrenic WinSAT scores. My Samsung Q1 ranges from a 4.0 in memory to a 1.5 on processor with Windows 7, and the Lenovo x300 I’m also reviewing varies from 6.0 for the SSD to a 3.5 on graphics with Windows 7. That’s just ridiculous, these machines should be far more balanced than they are.

I think you should be able to go online, and say that you want a computer that rates a 3.0 across the board, and they will put in hardware that does the trick. Then, when you look online at PC games you want to buy, you should be able to see underneath it computers for sale at various retailers that meet the minimum requirements. It could work the same for servers too. Wouldn’t it be great if you could say “well, if you need to serve 10,000 SQL requests an hour, you need a system with a minimum 4.2 WinSAT score, and then you could find well-balanced machines preconfigured to handle those requirements, or servers available from hosting providers for that matter.

Anyways, getting back to the point. HP, Lenovo, Dell and the like make products with varying degrees of quality. HP’s computers were best suited to run Vista, and the market responded to that. Coupled with Dell’s piss-poor technical support, and HP is at the top of the heap. While it is understandable that they put so much effort into meeting the original requirements, and they might be upset at the change… I think that it did far more good than harm in the end. So as a company, I don’t think they have much to complain about.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.



  • JoeM said:

    I have sent several requested to HP to put on their site the System ratting of their machines, so people could get better products.

    January 6, 2009 4:01 PM
  • RichardS said:

    The big problem with the WinSAT score in your above example (SQL server) is that the score you get is based on the value for the lowest subscore, a SQL server is not a machine that is supposed to be balanced, instead requiring high CPU/MEM/DISK, but low GRAPHICS. That low graphics, perhaps in the 1-2 range will completely skew the score downwards even though as a SQL server it's completely capable.

    The WinSAT scoring is incredibly broken and doesn't make much sense for anything. A game requiring a 4.5 score at worst, would probably still run incredibly well even if your disk was a 3.5 (bringing your score down to 3.5) as long as CPU/GRAPHICS and MEM were in the 4.5 range, so how is that a metric for how capable your PC is at running anything? Hell, Crysis RECOMMENDED a 5.0 score and none of the machines I have that rate 5.0 can run it with any particular level of smoothness.

    January 7, 2009 5:52 AM
  • Yert said:

    WinSAT does what it is supposed to; it quickly exposes the weakest link in your system. For general purpose computing, this will almost always result in improved performance for general tasks, or an all-in-one computer.

    And I have to say I am proud of HP for believing Microsoft, even if Microsoft backstabbed HP; it meant that HP bought into the initial Microsoft ideal of quality across the board. Microsoft made a mistake folding to Intel, even if the lower stamp of Capable was truthful to what it meant.

    January 7, 2009 6:14 PM
  • RichardS said:

    While quickly exposing the weakest link within ones system is definitely one of the intentions of the WinSAT score, which works well, the other is to be able to "at a glance" judge whether your PC is capable of running a certain type of software, this was to provide an easier to understand way of marketing software system requirements to customers as instead of a list of confusing hardware, it's distilled to a single number, it's in this aspect that the current system fails - you have a single number, but the value thereof is irrelevant.

    WinSAT works on the assumption that software requires "balanced" hardware, providing a scoring system to indicate whether any one component is highly out of whack compared to the rest. However, for something such as SQL, to continue Robert's example, a high GFX rating is not as important as high CPU/MEM or DISK, however how should SQL then be marketed, since "Requires a score of 4.0" doesn't work, as on a typical server graphics would rate well below that. You can't use any single score to market the software.

    Frankly I think MS should just dump the "big single value" as that can cause confusion when something says "requires 4.5" and a 4.5 rated machine ends up choking, and stick with the individual component values, they can then rather market that "if your machine has CPU, RAM and DISK of 4.0 then it's a great SQL setup or game setup" as they provide a far more helpful rating.

    January 7, 2009 8:34 PM