The new operating system from Microsoft is being released tomorrow after six years of development (along with Office 2007), and I find myself having to admit that, techno-geek that I am about technology toys, I am very resistent to change when it comes to operating systems. Therefore, I felt I should weigh in on whether, despite its many improvements and new features, it is worth an early upgrade.

When I opened my office, Windows 2000 was a new and a welcome change from Windows 98 Second Edition with its offers of stability and security. When I bought a new computer a few months later, it came loaded with it, and I was very happy. No more “blue screens of death” or worries about unauthorized access to files. Then along came Windows XP and what was commonly and cynically referred to as its “Fisher Price Interface.” I hated it. It didn’t look professional, and I just had a philosophical problem with Program Activation. What could it offer me that Windows 2000 did not? Besides, all of my machines had Windows 2000 at that point and why learn a new operating system with its new ways of doing things? Also, why go to the expense of buying newer hardware and software if I didn’t have to? For the next few years I went happily along without it.

Then came my wife’s new computer from Best Buy with Windows XP Home Edition pre-installed. Setting it up for her, and occasionally using it, started getting me used to its features and quirks. It started being fun to use, I learned how themes could be used to make the interface look more professional, and the multimedia features were clearly better. What finally clinched it was a vacation to Ocean City Maryland with my Windows 2000 laptop. As a mobile professional I like having my office wherever I go and connectivity is key. Unfortunately, Windows 2000 does not handle wireless networking well, and I had a heck of a time getting it to work. Therefore, when I upgraded my desktop to handle voice recognition software (which is the subject of another article), and when my laptop just became too old to be useful, I got them with Windows XP installed (Pro on the desktop and MCE on the laptop). I also got them with hardware that could handle Vista down the line, should I decide to upgrade (what this hardware should be is also the subject of another article). I have been happy ever since.

The upshot of all of this is that I believe that the needs of most solo and small firm attorneys can be met easily not at the leading edge of technology, but at its lagging edge, and that upgrades should only be done when you feel your current hardware and/or software is holding you back. Let’s face it, most of us use our computers for word processing, spreadsheets, case management databases, accounting/time and billing, and Internet. Hardly a strain for today’s hardware. Therefore, unless you have an application that cannot be implemented with what you have and can give you a serious return on investment, stick with what you’ve got and let others be the guinea pigs for Mictrosoft’s latest thing. The only exception would be if your computers are three to four years old or worse, and you are looking to upgrade anyway. Then get it with Vista Professional, which only lacks the multimedia and high end data encryption of Vista Ultimate. See for yourself on Microsoft’s comparison chart. Me, I’m not touching Vista until Service Pack 1 is released and the major kinks have been worked out. I would recommend you do likewise.