Nearly three years ago, when Microsoft released Windows Vista, it clearly swung for the fences. Not only did the new operating system include a slew of flashy new features and enhanced capabilities, it also incorporated a new look and feel to a large extent. Microsoft was trying to re-establish its dominance in the market, and to do so it tried to wow its customers with flash and sizzle. However, to continue the sports analogy, Microsoft forgot all about the fundamentals.
The thing is, users are not won over by fancy graphics capabilities or new gadgets in an operating system. They just want it to work. They want it to work fast, and if possible, they want it to make everything they do with a computer better. The deeper you dig into Vista, the more apparent it became that Microsoft lost sight of that. Companies that jumped on board early and upgraded have spent three years fighting compatibility problems, performance problems and instability. This was hardly the way for Microsoft to take down the competition once and for all. The problems were made worse by the fact that Windows XP (the predecessor to Vista) works really, really well. It's stable, fast, and works with all the hardware and software you have today.
On Oct. 22, Microsoft gets a chance to do it all over again. That's the official launch date for Windows 7. Enterprise clients and volume license users get access sooner, but that date will be the real bellwether. So the question is whether things will be different this time around. We have spent a good amount of time using the beta copies of the program, and now the release candidate, and I have to say I think the answer is a resounding yes.
There is no shortage of new features in the software. Most of the features, however, revolve around making the platform easier to use and more intuitive. Everything from the new taskbar to jump lists and desktop enhancements help the user work smarter. Less sizzle, more substance-something that was painfully missing from the last version.
Moreover, performance of the new OS moves front and center. Windows 7 will run better on the same hardware you have Vista on today. That's astounding when you think about it. Try to remember the last time something like a major operating system upgrade not only didn't require you to upgrade hardware, but actually ran better on the hardware you already have. When you think about it, that's completely logical, but we've been so trained to think the opposite that it truly is a complete departure.
Talking about running on your existing hardware platform is the first part of the new system's tremendous compatibility improvements. But that's only a small part of the tale. Vista to this day has a hard time running with many common hardware peripherals and software applications. Those days are over with Windows 7. XP Compatibility mode guarantees that any software application you run on Windows XP today will run on Windows 7 out of the box. This was the single biggest obstacle to adoption on Windows Vista and it has been completely removed.
There are other new features users will enjoy to different extents based on how you use a computer, but the bottom line is the same regardless. When Microsoft released Vista, it touted it as the greatest operating system ever and claimed to have changed the way users work. We are hearing some rumblings of similar claims this time around with the release of Windows 7.
The difference is, this time I think they just may be right.