By Craig Buckler

Microsoft Windows 7: the Launch Day and its Future

By Craig Buckler

Windows 7 launchUnless you’ve been living on Neptune for the past year, it will not have escaped your notice that today’s the day for Microsoft’s new OS. Windows 7 has been released around the world, so expect to hear news about stores opening at midnight and long queues around the block. Amazon also announced that pre-orders for Windows 7 outsold the most recent Harry Potter book.

Compared to other launches, Windows 7 has been a fairly low-key affair. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will attend the formal launch in New York, but there’s little glitz and glamor:

  • A big expensive party could appear vulgar in the current economic climate.
  • Microsoft has learned lessons from Vista’s “wow starts now” campaign; to many users, the only wow-factor was how they managed to make XP’s successor so slow and unstable.

What’s New in Windows 7

Primarily, Windows 7 is leaner and faster than Vista. The OS will run on a range of machines including low-powered netbooks. It will boot quicker and allow you to get online sooner.

Vista’s bloat allowed Linux to gain a foothold in the netbook market. There’s a general perception that Linux is for geeks — even though many users would undoubtedly be better off with an OS that is far more tamper-proof than Windows. The risk for Microsoft was that people might use Linux and like it. Although they counteracted that threat by extending the life of XP, Microsoft needs Windows 7 to be a more profitable long-term solution.

From an aesthetic point of view, there’s little to separate Windows 7 from Vista. I’m not a fan of unnecessary desktop effects and I initially disliked Vista, but I grew accustomed to it.

If you’re expecting a long list of new features, you might be a little disappointed. Touchscreens and handwriting recognition is supported, file sharing is easier, power saving is better, XP Mode will be useful, and there are some pleasant desktop enhancements. However, the OS is an evolution rather than a revolution; almost everything has been polished and improved, but nothing radical has been added. Perhaps that’s for the best. Microsoft tried to be ambitious with Longhorn, but the technically amazing OS was never delivered.

Overall, Windows 7 is a worthy upgrade. Whether you can justify the cost is another matter.

Could This be Microsoft’s Last OS?

There has been much speculation about how operating systems will evolve in response to cloud computing. Google plans to release Chrome OS in 2010 — it will be free and probably consist of a lightweight Linux base that boots quickly and launches a browser. However, corporate users are more conservative and wi-fi will need to be universally ubiquitous (and possibly free) before the benefits of cloud computing are fully realized.

The biggest threat to Microsoft is it’s own products. Users are often happy to stick with Windows XP and Office 2003 because it does everything they want. However, it’s evident that Microsoft is switching emphasis to thin client computing (or at least trimmer client computing). Charging $200 for an OS upgrade every few years will therefore become an outdated revenue model. Microsoft will certainly trial pay-as-you-go and advert-supported products. If they’re successful, the same model could be applied to Windows.

Despite increased competition, I doubt this is the last we’ll see of Windows. Windows 7 should put Microsoft back on the right path and the initial signs indicate it will be a success. Let’s hope so: the sooner people upgrade, the quicker IE6 will be eradicated!

Have you purchased Windows 7? Have you installed it? Do you like it? Has Microsoft done enough to answer Vista’s critics?

And the big question: is Windows increasingly unimportant or will users continue to use what they know?

  • Neil


    I’ve been using Windows 7 through the Beta and RC1 stages, still am, with the retail version on it’s way to my house. I think it’s a great OS and I was using Vista since the first week it was out for two years are after the first 3 months I think Vista worked perfectly find and didn’t have any problems with it. Although I’m sure it used used a lot of resources and had driver support problems, windows 7 is still built on top of Vista basically, it’s just Vista but more refined but as Vista now has worked out all the problems it had before so has Windows 7 and it seems like a great OS.

  • The desktop effects that changed with the Vista switch were tolerable. I’ve been using my Dad’s work computer to test Windows 7 (he got the free upgrade) and I’m not finding a whole lot of difference. My Vista experience has been less than desirable, full of system failures and crashes, and quite frankly I am not incredibly confident that Windows 7 can overcome the annoying glitches of Vista. Microsoft has said it can, but I am not willing to dish out anywhere between 150-300 bucks for something that hasn’t been on the market for more than a couple of months. As far as this being Microsoft’s last operating system — I’m not too sure about that. If this is a success, it’ll give them the power to continue making more OSs. ::crosses fingers for Chrome OS::

  • Anonymous

    [Have you purchased Windows 7?] No, I get it for free (legally).
    [Have you installed it?] I’ll be waiting for a while to let it mature from a security standpoint.
    [Do you like it?] I’ve seen others using it, and I love Vista. Therefore, the chances are high that I will like it.
    [Has Microsoft done enough to answer Vista’s critics?] We won’t know until 7 is released to the masses. However, I really don’t care what Vista’s critics think (I’ve yet to hear a good argument against using Vista that doesn’t involve a dollar figure).

    [Is Windows increasingly unimportant or will users continue to use what they know?] Sorry, but this entire cloud computing model is deeply flawed from a security and privacy standpoint. I have absolutely no plans to use technology based on this terrible idea, and I will use all of my power and influence to prevent as many people as possible from embracing that movement. If the world is seriously moving in that direction (and it is not just the will of a few bloggers at Sitepoint) then I promise that I will make that move as difficult as possible.

  • Dooza

    I have been using the pre-release free copy for a media centre PC, its been working perfectly for 4 months, not one single crash. The install was quicker than XP, and it just works. I don’t use it for much else, but the Media Centre is great, HD content, freeview content, program guide, library, all really good.

    If I could of pre-ordered in the UK for the same price as the US I would have done, but I am now going to save up and wait for my pre-release to stop working in March before I make a purchsae.

  • I realized that the only reason I was using Windows was for gaming. Since Vista came out, I tried out Ubuntu and some other distros and liked them a lot. I’m a Computer Science major, so the “geekiness” of Linux is not an issue – in fact, I like it better for application development. And it works just fine for word processing and whatnot, too.

    Also, at work I have a MacBook Pro, which I’m growing fond of. Of course, the gaming situation is just as bad for both of these systems. Anyways, with the anticlimactic “Games for Windows” (what, only some 32 titles?) and the even worse turn out for “Live” games on Vista, which isn’t looking any better for W7, why would I switch back? Might as well just stick to the Xbox for gaming.

  • finallywindowsfree

    I tried Linux a few times in the past and found that it was a time-consuming hobby just getting (and keeping) my system running right. Out of fear of Vista, I decided to try Ubuntu earlier this year. It “just worked”, out of the box. I didn’t have to go hunting down weird config files or spend hours reading forums trying to figure out how to get all my devices working.

    So, in short, it isn’t really just for geeks anymore. Now the only real hurdle for Linux growth is lack of familiarity. For me, I’m so glad I don’t ever have to worry again about what garbage Microsoft will unleash next. Except at work :(

  • I’ve used Windows 98, ME and XP. Microsoft seems to have a pattern of creating a simple stable OS (98, XP) followed by an OS that is less simple and less stable (ME, Vista — judging only from what I’ve read of Vista). If this pattern holds, then Windows 7 should be better than Vista.

    But I’m thinking of getting a Mac OS next, primarily because the Mac OS is attacked less with viruses and spyware than Windows OS. I’m aware Apple computers still have security problems from time to time, but much less than Windows.

    I’ve read a lot about Linux Ubuntu, and I’m thinking of installing that on a Dell I have. The post above is just one more reason for me to give Linux a try.

    But I think Windows OS will be a player for a long time.


  • commandnotapple

    Microsoft will certainly trial pay-as-you-go and advert-supported products

    I have to disagree with this statement. People associate advertisements within their browser, and sometimes in software products (which are usually connected to the interent in some way, such as Evernote or Twitterrific). People may accept advertising in Chrome OS if Google makes appear like it’s a just a big browser (or something to that effect), but beyond this there is no way I can see people accepting ad based OSes, and I’m not even sure how you would setup a pay-as-you-go system (have you tried installing Windows…it can be a hassle. I can’t see Microsoft getting something like this right).

    I generally agreed with most of the article up until this point, but that was very off the wall Craig. What evidence do you have that would lead you to believe that Microsoft would try one of these revenue models? I’d be interested to see what’s up Microsoft’s sleeve.

  • I do not like the idea of having to pay megabucks each time Microsoft releases a new OS. I also do not like the idea of an add-based OS.

    I would, however, favour the idea of a subscription-based OS, say £30 per year. I already have other software for which I pay an annual subscription, so I am used to paying little but often instead of hugely and infrequently.

  • @commandnotapple
    MS already use advertising in Windows products such as Works and Accounting. You generally pay a fee to remove adverts or add new features.

    If Windows becomes leaner, how long will MS be able to charge big bucks for it? The problem remains that many people will continue to use older versions (an estimated 80% of PC users never upgraded to Vista).

    Therefore, it’s logical for MS to try other models. They already do that for business customers, so why not everyone else?

    Wow – you’re really against cloud computing! The reason I asked whether Windows is important or not is because of the competition from Macs, Linux and — potentially — web OSs. There’s nothing Windows can do that the alternatives can’t, especially if you’re primarily using web applications.

    I use Ubuntu on another PC and it’s great. It installs in 30 minutes and has all the software you need out of the box. There’s not much to keep me on Windows, but I continue to use it.

  • I agree with the cloud-detractors – the cloud cannot be trusted; it’s not safe, and it’s not reliable. Fine for photos and open social data, but it’s not a good place to put anything vulnerable or critical.

    As far as I can see (from the TV adverts), the main selling points of Windows 7 are copies of Mac OS features. Nice one.

  • Oh, and interestingly enough, I didn’t know that Windows 7 was anything more than the working name of a hypothetical future version, until 2 days ago. Low key is certainly has been!

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