With the availability of the Windows 7 release candidate (RC) to the general public earlier this week, now is probably a good time as any to do a recap of the initial impressions from testers who have installed it and given this pre-release update a spin.
For those who are not aware yet, Windows 7 RC will be available free-of-charge for 13 months. (It will forcibly shutdown every two hours from the 12th month onwards, though.) Since Microsoft has indicated there will not be another release candidate before the actual roll-out of Windows 7, this long period of availability makes this an excellent opportunity for SMBs to evalaue the new OS.
Windows 7 RC should give an accurate picture of what the final release will look like. So let's take a look at a couple of the most talked-about aspect of Windows 7.
PCWorld benchmarked Windows 7 RC using its WorldBench 6 suite, which was designed to mirror real-world usage of various applications. Its conclusion was that while there were certainly improvements, the percentage gains were generally less than 5 percent -- negligible, essentially.
Many readers who read the article and commented were vociferous in decrying the benchmarks as flawed. Reader waldojim was among those who disagreed, writing that "Anyone who has used Vista regulary and the Beta will say that these tests are incorrect. Not only is the application performance and stability better but the networking is over 30x faster." ElektroShok noted that "Bootup and shutdown are both faster," and that Windows 7 was significantly better when running Microsoft's Flight Simulator X on his high-end rig. Microsoft Flight Simulator X is intensely taxing on the system resources.
So is actual performance improvements in Windows 7 all down to perception only, or perhaps just more obvious on state-of-the-art rigs? I'll chip in with my opinion after I get my copy installed, so stay tuned!
Moving on, the folks over at Download Squad approached the (somewhat) controversial reaction towards the "XP Mode" in Windows 7 from another angle. They noted that its inclusion means that legacy software -- such as older Point Of Sales (POS) software, should continue to run fine even on 64-bit hardware.
You might be interested to know that even though the XP mode in Windows 7 is implemented using a virtual machine, it has the ability to display only the desired application windows directly on the Windows 7 desktop. In fact, Windows XP would be indistinguishable if not for the Windows XP themed UI. vnunet labs blog has a write-up on this feature and plus the screenshots of XP Mode in action.
ExtremeTech has a longer feature on Windows 7 XP Mode, noting that XP Mode has many uses, such as enabling the use of Windows XP-only printer drivers in Windows 7. Taken in this light, it is clear that XP Mode is really a stroke of genius rather than a tacit admission of the inadequateness of Windows 7.
Of course, you need to be aware that XP Mode supports only selected Intel processors at the moment.
Performance freaks will glad to know that Windows 7 has been tested and tweaked to perform better with Solid State Drives (SSD).
And if you have been been wondering about Microsoft's plans for Windows Vista -- well, Windows Vista will be around until 2010, and Microsoft will continue support until 2012. Business Enterprise users will continue to receive updates until April 2017.
You can download Windows 7 RC directly from Microsoft. The download page should remain available throughout July at least.