Windows 7 is in a groove right now. The beta in January and the RC a week ago have received mostly positive reviews and Microsoft has done a solid job of pacing the development of the OS and testing it with partners and customers. It is set to ship before the holiday season.
Windows 7 may not be the panacea that Microsoft is portraying it to be. But what could be? Windows 7 could be the most secure and intuitive OS ever and enterprise IT shops still may not deploy it in an economic recession.
But nonetheless, Microsoft has done much right with the features, system requirements and marketing of Windows 7. Its best move, in my humble opinion, was to make the OS more flexible and ready for this ever-changing world we live in. The software giant did NOT think like this when it released Vista, even though the computing world was not as complex in 2006.
Let's wind back the clocks. A little under three years ago, Microsoft made evolutionary changes with Vista. It piled on features, and it over-promised and under-delivered with delays, compatibility problems and heavy-duty system requirements. Microsoft did not do enough testing with partners and customers and Vista went to market in early 2007 marred with problems. To this day, Vista is powering around 10 percent of all PCs within enterprises, according to research from Forrester.
But looking back, it seems like Microsoft fell on its sword with Vista. There were fewer threats to the Windows OS in 2006, and an opportunity was there to set a new tone. Linux market share on the client side was practically zero; there were no iPhones and definitely no netbooks; Google had yet to release its Android OS; Mac OS market share was half what it is today; and Blackberrys were a corporate niche market product.
Maybe because of this relative calm, a self-satisfied Microsoft got drunk on itself and released a powerful but unfocused beast in Vista. But what Microsoft did not see coming was a diverse and flexible computing world full of smartphones, low-powered netbooks and Web-based applications. Vista, with its massive system and resource requirements, has never fit into this world.
All of the previously mentioned products are now legitimate threats to reduce Windows usage in one way or another, and all benefited from Vista's struggles, especially Mac OS and Linux.
Windows 7 is better prepared for this world. Microsoft enhanced the interface, security and networking features of Vista with Windows 7, but lowered the system requirements and bloat for flexibility. Windows 7 will run smoothly on laptops and netbooks and Microsoft has tested it with partners and business customers to make sure the compatibility nightmares of Vista don't happen again.
Windows 7 will not save the Windows OS from more elusive threats like smartphones and online applications that don't need Windows to work. But it will make Windows a better, more nimble "PC" experience.
For that, you can credit Microsoft for studying the world around it much better than it did in 2006.
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