Windows 7 could be showing Vista the door
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
November 25-December 1, 2008; issue 996
High Tech Office column
Despite millions and
millions of copies of Vista sold, that version of Windows has become
the operating system whose name shall not be spoken aloud. Neither
Microsoft’s TV commercials pairing Bill Gates with Jerry Seinfeld nor
their recent “I’m a PC” ads mention Vista, for example.
late October, the company’s professional developer’s conference wheeled
out what will be called Windows 7. While Windows 7 isn’t yet even
available as a pre-release version, the company is claiming that the
features of this pre-beta (i.e. pre-pre-release) version are fixed in
The goal: simplify Vista, while paying attention to data
Microsoft has gathered on how real users use their computers. As
demonstrated at PDC, Win 7 includes perhaps the largest set of user
interface changes since Windows 95.
Among the changes:
•easier ways to connect to a wireless network, to manage plugged-in
devices and to organize music collections; and
•an icon-only taskbar that allows space for frequently used
applications – much like the Mac OS X dock.
copied from the Mac: “jump lists” – right click on a dock (oops!
taskbar) icon and a list of typical tasks, including recent documents,
Snap a window to the top of the screen to maximize it,
drag it down to restore it. Snap it to the side to fill half the
screen. Easily turn file previewing on and off. Vista’s sidebar is no
more; now gadgets can be moved anywhere on the desktop. The clutter of
little icons in the lower right-corner tray is reduced by hiding most
Vista’s nagging user account control features have been
tamed. Now users can turn off warnings when renaming a desktop icon
while still keeping alerts about potentially dangerous program
installations. A program compatibility troubleshooter should help
programs that refuse to run because they’re looking for an older
version of Windows. Encryption and backups have been improved.
Microsoft also promises better boot times and its system’s ability to
run well on the increasingly popular low-powered netbooks.
of the applets (low-powered programs previously bundled with Windows)
will be replaced with optional “Windows Live” downloads, hopefully
reducing some of the confusion with three different Microsoft instant
messaging programs, competing photo organizers and more. And unlike in
Vista, the power button icon in Win 7’s start menu shuts it down.
what’s visible to the user shows lots of improvements, what’s under the
hood hasn’t undergone the drastic shift that occurred between Windows
XP and Vista. Many of the problems people experienced moving to Vista
resulted from the new display layer, requirements for hardware device
drivers and its security model. These are basically unchanged from
Vista to Windows 7. The result: hardware and software that work with
Vista should run fine in the new version. However, any devices or
programs that work under XP but had problems with Vista will continue
to have problems with Win 7.
The result: the version of Windows
7 Microsoft showed off promises a cleaned-up version of Vista with a
more polished user experience, faster boot times and somewhat better
performance. And users shouldn’t experience anywhere near the level of
breakage that occurred in the shift from XP to Vista.
and organizations that are holding back from moving to Vista hoping
that Windows 7 will let them continue to use their older XP-capable
hardware and software will be disappointed. Windows 7 will be Vista
under the hood, but with a sleeker body. InfoWorld’s Randall Kennedy
suggested that it will be “just as slow as Vista, just as
consumer-focused as Vista and just as confusing as Vista.”
showing off Windows 7 at its PDC, Microsoft kept some details close to
its chest: no release date, no pricing information and no mention of
the range of versions were announced. By keeping a less ambitious
product than Vista, the company likely will be able to release it
sometime in 2009-10.
But in demonstrating Win 7 now, the company
may have given users and organizations more reasons than ever to avoid
Windows Vista. •