Walter Mossberg is the computer columnist for the Wall Street Journal and is not qualified for the job. There are many examples of his lack of qualification and today offered another. Someone who wanted to buy a new computer but did not want Vista asked him if it was possible to wipe off Vista and install Windows XP (read column).
The answer is yes and Mr. Mossberg said the answer is yes. But the question assumes that every new computer on the planet is sold with Vista. This is not true now, it won't be true in the near future and I'm fairly sure it won't be true long term.
Consumer machines come with Vista. As Mr. T used to say: I pity the fools. However, computer companies also sell PCs for use in businesses and they can be purchased with Windows XP. I think you are much better buying XP as opposed to Vista, but that's another story (and one where Mr. Mossberg again shows that is unqualified when it comes to computers).
Large corporations won't use Vista for a long time for many reasons. One is that their current machines can't run it but, most importantly, because they employ some qualified computer nerds that know not to depend on a new Operating System for at least a year or at least a service pack. Probably longer. No computer company is going to refuse orders for hundreds of XP based machines from large companies. Thus, you can depend on being able to buy a machine with XP for quite a while.
There is another advantage to computers targeted to businesses; they come with much less "junkware" pre-installed. Despite the tiny font for this sentence, its a big advantage.
I have said this many times: You don't read PC Magazine for Mutual Fund advice and you shouldn't read the Wall Street Journal for computer advice.
February 20, 2007. Mr. Mossberg responds:
As much as you might enjoy the thrill of pointing out alleged errors in newspapers, my answer to the question posed by my reader was 100% correct. In fact, your email (and blog post) said: "The answer is yes and Mr. Mossberg said the answer is yes."
Your email suggests I should have gone beyond answering the question and instead questioned the question itself, which is not what I do in these short Q&As. Plus, you are seriously confused about my role. I write for consumers, and only consumers (people you dismiss with the snide comment: "I pity the fools.") I don't write for IT people or techies (a group to which you say you belong.) So your advice about what businesses and computer nerds do, or should so, is irrelevant.
February 21, 2007. Regarding Mr. Mossberg's comments:
Saying "As much as you might enjoy the trill of pointing out alleged errors..." is making this personal which it never was. Regardless of any pros/cons about the messenger (me) any discussion should be on the facts.
Not that is matters in this regard, but I don't enjoy pointing out errors. They sadden me. My profession is letting people down. I run computergripes.com and the theme there is one of disappointment, not one of anger.
Regarding: "Your email suggests I should have gone beyond answering the question and instead questioned the question itself..." Yes! Absolutely. That's what experts do, they advise people who are not experts, even advising them when they are asking the wrong question. But, in too many respects, Mr. Mossberg is not an expert.
Mr. Mossberg claims to write for consumers. Well, consumers are often better off buying personal computers targeted at businesses. I have always advised my clients to do this to avoid the ton of pre-installed software on consumer machines that gets in the way (at best), slows down the machine, makes the operation more confusing and makes Windows less stable. Someone went so far as to write a utility dedicated to uninstalling the "junkware" from Dell machines, Dell being among the worst in this regard. The fact that buying a business oriented machine lets you get XP instead of Vista just makes this even more important.
Mr. Mossberg implies that all consumer machines ship with Vista. Most do, but not all. Lenovo sells new desktops with XP (as of yesterday) as does Velocity Micro. HP does too in the outlet section of their web site. But again, focusing on a consumer targeted PC is a mistake in the first place.
My line about "pity the fools" is joke, referring to something Mr. T used to say. Apparently, it didn't come across as intended. I'm a consultant and almost all my clients are consumers. I do indeed feel sorry for consumers who have little or no training with computers and often get bad advice. And documentation in the field is a disgrace. A brutal disgrace. Heck, even billions-in-the-bank Microsoft doesn't ship Windows with a manual.
Not to pick on the Journal or Mr. Mossberg, I'll modify my motto: You don't read PC Magazine for Mutual Fund advice and you shouldn't read any newspaper for computer advice.