Free Windows 7
Also starting on the 26th, an increasing number of PCs preloaded with Windows Vista will get a free upgrade to Windows 7. This is normal practice and one intended to keep folks from simply waiting until Windows 7 ships in October. My preference, given that I install operating systems a lot, is to have someone else do it, and my normal recommendation is to wait and buy your new system pre-loaded. But if your laptop is now a doorstop, at least you don't have to worry about having to pay for an OS upgrade shortly after buying it if you get one of the machines that have this upgrade offer.
Should You Upgrade?
I'm addressing to you as individuals, not corporations. Corporations should always evaluate new software offerings against strategic goals and needs to form their own opinions. I've been using Windows 7 in production since it came out in public beta and it has been more stable than Windows Vista was for the first 18 months of its existence. However, since being patched, my Vista machines are now just as stable, and Windows 7 is simply a performance and minor visual enhancement to the now heavily patched Vista offering. Windows 7 is what Vista should have been, but then so is Vista for the most part. Realize that Windows 7 is effectively the maintenance release of Windows Vista, which means upgrades from Vista go really well, upgrades from Windows XP, not so much.
Final Thoughts and Clean Installations
I get to do a lot of troubleshooting and I generally find that while upgrading is far simpler, clean installations (where you start with a clean drive) tend to result in the best long-term experience. This will be an interesting case because Europe will largely all be clean installations, and the rest of the world will have large numbers of folks who upgrade.
After the initial installation pain, this should result in higher customer satisfaction for Windows 7 in Europe. When we get closer to the launch, we'll touch on this again. But in case you are running into this piece after you have Windows 7 (these things have a long shelf life), don't forget to remove any anti-virus software and back up your system before doing an upgrade. Clickfree makes a nice easy line of backup offerings that are ideal for this.
One final thought: I think this is the last time we'll see a product from Microsoft like Windows 7. With the pressures from the EU, I think it will need to go in a different direction in the future. We'll talk about the birth of the modular operating system in a future post.