Vista SP1 vs. XP SP3 Performance Stats: Flawed Samples or Market Reality?

IT Business, Microsoft, Vladville

The bad news for Microsoft Vista keep on piling on, this week from a group outraged that the Vista SP1 is apparently only focusing on the stability and reliability, not performance. Through what is arguably flawed test, a group has “proven” that Vista SP1 performs 30% worse than its 6-years-senior brother, XP SP3. Either way, the group gave in to the criticism and added another 1 GB of RAM to the system, and ran both XP SP3 and Vista SP1 with 2GB RAM. The results looked even worse for Vista running Office 2003.

Now I am not going to argue whether these conclusions are valid or not, I will even go as far to say that if I were @Microsoft I too would focus on improving the product reliability and stability over the performance.

What I will argue is that this test, with all its flaws, represents the marketplace a lot more realistically than Microsoft wants to believe. Yes, 1 GB ram. Yes, Office 2003 (or older). Yes, IDE drive. Yes, onboard SATA controller. Yes, 32bit systems because driver support for 64bit sucks. Those are the realities of your basic workstations, at best to be honest.

So what?

This reality disconnect is really only a Microsoft problem. Microsoft has been lying to itself, to its partners and to its customers about the satisfaction customers get from Vista. In much the same fashion Dave dismisses the statistics of comparing old with the new, Microsoft has been delusional in the Vista failure constantly quoting the growth units in spite of the fact that the global PC shipments have increased many times over since the release of Windows XP.

So the big question here is whether this Microsoft problem is really your problem? Is their supposed disconnect with the market reality something that should be allowed to impact your business or is this time time reject the notion of Microsoft-centric all-Microsoft business built on Vista, Office, Exchange, SQL, Server, Business Solutions?

There is a big rift, one that I have never seen before, between what Microsoft is offering and what customers are asking for or what is even available on the market. You see, the market is demanding a low cost PC with low TCO (read: managed services) and the operational basics: email, scheduling, shared files and some integration with the things they already own – smartphones, VoIP, (kill me now) Macs and iPhones.

They no longer want to buy into the Microsoft-only world and are rapidly rejecting any investment in the hardware beyond that of storage and VoIP. Since the release of Windows 95, users have done everything they could to upgrade to the latest. You can say, businesses were fanboys, swayed by the improvements in reliability, communication, speed. Not so much anymore.

The big question, one that even I am hard pressed to answer, is whether it is over for Microsoft? You see, my business exists at its core as a Microsoft business. We generally go into situations that involve the Microsoft platform at one version or another, and we work on getting it to the baseline. However, with the rapid de-Microsoftization of our core markets, is it still viable to solve problems by providing more of the same, or are Microsoft self-delusions of desktop/server strategy missing customer expectations and thereby inadequate for the long term?

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13 Responses to Vista SP1 vs. XP SP3 Performance Stats: Flawed Samples or Market Reality?

  1. doverton12 says:


    I understand what you are saying and you are right, there are some things that Vista needs to do to become a slam dunk and Microsoft definitely needs to listen more to partners and business models.

    Customers and partners have always had a choice about buying MS and I definitely don’t remember the Microsoft centric world you described – I’ve always sold well against Microsoft before I joined and battled hard to win after I joined. Before I joined Microsoft my job was benchmarking and proving why my Unix systems were better than others, so I do have an informed opinion about the benchmark – it was not close to ideal, but that does not mean that Vista is without criticism.

    However, I want you to cast your mind back to when XP shipped. 16/32/64MB machines were common and many of the perf issues people talk about today (which are often solved with good device drivers and reasonable spec IT) were the plague of people with Windows XP, or Windows 2000 before it. 6 years down the line and still 30-40% of people have not moved to XP yet due to these difficulties. Every OS goes through this as the h/w and software requirements leap frog each other. The more hardware and software you support and the worse the problem is. I can tell you that we have far more applications that are Vista certified than we did at this time in the life of XP, more drivers, more h/w support, better detection of bad h/w and more. My 2GB and 4GB machines outperform XP on the same boxed, but I did need to update drivers and bioses to get to that state. Are we saying that the 88M people who have bought Vista are deluded?

    Have a look at urls like that talk about the “ram hunger” of XP.

    If XP was the runaway success that people wanted then we would have seen a much higher adoption curve than we did – Vista still beats the XP adoption curve and OEMs can still sell XP and about 1/2 of all Vista installs are from OEMs, not under VL, so people are buying it, not just getting it under a “contract”. Should Vista have set the world on fire – nope – it should be bought by businesses for TCO reasons and that means it works for your business. This is often not a day 1 scenario for everyone, hence the adoption curve mentioned earlier.

    For gamers and home users there is always the discussion of what is / isn’t needed on a PC. Perhaps we should offer a setting to turn off the new features such as search, security, memory location randomiser, IPv6, etc, etc, rendered graphics and then see how much more performance you can squeezae out of the chips on the PC. Of course, you would then have something much more like Windows XP rather than Windows Vista, but it would run faster, be less secure, look like XP… oh hang on, why bother upgrading if I don’t want the new features… Oh, and then there was the time when we held a gaming competition into a big server – to get perf the users had turned off all those security and services for speed. There was an average of 36 (if I remember, it could have been higher) spyware and viri on each machine, slowing it down more than the protection services would have done.

    I digressed, but I have argued I don’t know how many times, if the new features don’t work for you, stick to XP or find an OS that does work for you, but choose it to work, not on looks, “fan boy” or from an uninformed position. If it works out better, then upgrade, but that does not mean that upgrades are without pain – again, as it always has been. This is the process that has largely what has been happening for the last 15 years and there is a standard adoption curve that fits this.

    I know this has been a long response and because I am typing it into a small box I am bound to have gone mad somewhere in it, but while I agree with where you are coming from, I respectfully don’t agree with everything. Of course, if you have a suggestion as to what we need to do, rather than just “your wrong” – I’m all ears and as you know, I have fed your feedback into MS before and it gets some serious inspection, so don’t be shy.

    Oh, one last thing on the “fan boy” thing – MS was the darling of the IT world 10 years ago and the world was very different, now it is fun to hate them, so it is not surprising that the “good” voices are less publicised than the “bad” ones. As a journalist told me from the world’s largest news agency – it is not news if MS does good – it is expected. However they can triple their traffic if they publish a “bad” MS headline, even if the content of the article is balanced. MS has done some things to deserve some of this in its past, but some is just bashing – see



  2. vlad says:


    I agree with your comments, I think they are on the money, with the exception of the adoption curve and the 88 million sold through the OEM channel. Of course you’re going to have incredible Vista growth if that is the ONLY thing you offer. The amount of blowback against Dell forced them to offer XP again, no store in USA seems to have XP FPP or a PC running XP on sale.

    By the same token, I doubt you will disagree with me when I say that the number is highly questionable given the amount of people downgrading.

    The tone of the post I was going for was that the market is demanding a more efficient PC where Microsoft is delivering a more functional and power-hungry PC. It is a divergence.

    Now, if there was a reasonable alternative to Windows XP.

    How is this for feedback:
    Windows Vista N Essentials.

    Give me Vista without the parental controls, without Aero, without Bitlocker, without prefetch, without x64 option. Anotherwords, give me this in an easy to sell way:


  3. StaceyCochran says:

    I have to agree with Vlad, I still see more W2K boxes than Vista machines out there in the business markets. Personally, I like Vista, and all of my clients without LOB apps are encouraged to buy new machines with Vista on them, but we are often told “It’s pretty, but why pay more for stuff we don’t use?” Sure, if they are buying new machines anyway, then we recommend it, I would hate to give some a new machine and 1 year later they wonder why they are still on XP. Vista has really allowed us to push more robust machines to clients, which would have benefitted them with XP as well.

    We are opening up our portfolio to Linux and open source alternatives as more and more clients are asking about them. As more software becomes more cross compatible, the adoption of alternatives will increase.

  4. doverton12 says:


    you can create a standard image of Vista just like that today without embedded – that is the purpose of the OPK to enable you to remove chunks of the OS for a streamlined version on your desktop, however, when an application uses a codec to display something (eg IM) or wants to display using Direct X 10, don’t blame MS for you removing it. Remember that there is a HUGE application portfolio out that which both slows things down (more testing by people) and also provides a great reason to use Windows.

    Perhaps we should go through the OS components one day and produce a “slim” version for you to test – what do you say.

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  6. vlad says:


    You know what — thats are really great offer that I think would make Vista a lot more appealing to a number of businesses.

    I know dozens of people that have rolled back because of UAC prompts before we outright started shipping them with UAC prompts disabled for Admin accounts as a standard practice.

    I think having this type of stuff in hand would make the Vista a lot more appealing. How about we do it and record it…. what do you say?

    I pay in Microsoft swag 🙂


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  9. doverton12 says:


    sounds good – do you have the OPK for Windows Vista, if not you can download it from Lets fire it up and chat through a set of options. There are LOTS of things you can remove IF you want to.



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