Windows Vista: Printer and Scanner Driver incompatibility - Blame Microsoft

Lately I've gotten lots of e-mail complaining about the lack of printer and scanner driver compatibility for Vista in older, and in many cases discontinued, models. Every complaint blames the manufacturer for not providing a Vista driver at all, or providing one that lacks support for some of the printer's or scanner's functions. Most go […]

Lately I've gotten lots of e-mail complaining about the lack of printer and scanner driver compatibility for Vista in older, and in many cases discontinued, models. Every complaint blames the manufacturer for not providing a Vista driver at all, or providing one that lacks support for some of the printer's or scanner's functions. Most go further, into heated—if not outright flame—territory, accusing the manufacturer in question of trying to rip off the poor consumer. A good number include some variation on the phrase "I will never again buy a (printer or scanner) from (company name)." At least as many letters suggest that PC Magazine ought to write about this issue. Well, sure—here goes, though I know a lot of people will disagree with my conclusions.

First, I'd argue that all of these e-mails lay the blame at the wrong doorstep. Microsoft is the one that chose not to provide backward compatibility in Vista. Instead, it dropped the problem into everyone else's lap. If you're going to be angry, you should at least aim your anger in the right direction.

I have a great deal of sympathy for printer and scanner vendors in this. Many of them have tens or even hundreds of different models that they stopped selling before—in some cases long before—Vista came out, or else soon afterward. Having to go back and rewrite drivers for every model is a massive undertaking, one that is hard to justify for models that are no longer for sale.

Please note that I'm not talking about printers or scanners that claim to support Vista and don't do a good job of it. I'm referring solely to models that were sold without their makers promising to support Vista in the first place. Many of these machines came to market years before Vista became available. How reasonable it is to expect Vista compatibility depends on which of two categories the printer or scanner falls into. The first consists of those models that had already been (or were on the verge of being) discontinued when Vista was introduced. The other includes products still available today, and with no immediate prospect of being discontinued.

The most heated complaints I've gotten involve the discontinued (or soon-to-be-discontinued) models. These rants include accusations that the manufacturer is "ignoring customers," or else "gouging consumers" by forcing them to buy new products if they move to Vista. The angry tone that these complaints take seems to be due to the fact that the older the product, the less likely the manufacturer is to have added Vista support. I'd suggest, however, that the older a product model is, the less there is to complain about.

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Microsoft, Windows Vista, Printer, Scanner, Software Driver, Incompatibility, Support