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Summary:

Last week, Microsoft released the public beta of Windows 7, the successor to the much-maligned Vista operating system. After spending the past three days testing the system, I’m impressed. Windows 7 proves that the company from Redmond is in no mood to cede control over the […]

screenshot_pinned1Last week, Microsoft released the public beta of Windows 7, the successor to the much-maligned Vista operating system. After spending the past three days testing the system, I’m impressed. Windows 7 proves that the company from Redmond is in no mood to cede control over the desktop OS market. According to Net Applications, Microsoft’s OS market share dropped to a 15-year low of 89.62 percent last year, with the most gains coming from Apple’s OS X. Some believe that webtops (think Google) will soon kill stand-alone desktop operating systems, but I disagree. Microsoft’s overall OS user reach is so huge through hardware sales (a majority of the approximately 300 million Vista deployments are said to be from OEM embedded systems) that an improved version that better integrates with the web will likely stem the desktop market slide. Google understands the advantage Microsoft has, which is why it’s trying to develop the same system for mobiles (as well as for portable cloud client computers) by developing Android.

Microsoft shouldn’t worry too much — at least for now. Windows 7 has UI features that are logical and is better optimized for lower-powered computers, like netbooks.

No, it’s not the full desktop-Internet hybrid that one would have expected, but it is made to take advantage of the Internet. Windows 7 improves web browsing by offering a better desktop experience. For example, your favorite sites (on IE8) can now be launched straight from the taskbar. It also removes bloatware like Windows Mail and Movie Maker in favor of web app versions hosted by Windows Live. This is a double bonus: It frees up a fast system to be used in the cheap netbooks bound to dominate hardware trends in the near future and gives users flexibility over their web choices. Kevin Tofel over at jkOnTheRun has already installed Windows 7 on his netbook.

Windows 7 vs. Windows Vista

Where Windows 7 focuses on improved everyday desktop navigation, Vista focused on the demands of powerful media-centered PCs with a system that eschewed ease of use in favor of powerful but hard-to-use features. And there were the annoying security pop-ups that required excessive proactive engagement on part of the computer users.

Windows 7 reduces those irritations. By only assigning memory tasks to windows you’re using, it hogs less power and memory. This makes it quick on systems with only 1GB of RAM — I booted the OS in less than a minute on two laptops and they had plenty of RAM left over to play multiple applications. This should allow Microsoft to ship it in netbooks without XP-downgrading embarrassments.

The fact that the UI has been remodeled for simple web apps also makes it versatile. A new wireless connections manager now displays all available networks with a single click on the taskbar. Before, it took three navigation screens to find them. The new taskbar does something similar. Traditionally, the bar was used to only keep track of open documents and apps, with text labels. Now, large icons are used to switch between docs and to launch apps, a version of the old alt-tab. This is a controversial change because multifunction apps can be confusing. But navigating through the icons is logical for the web — simply click on the IE8 icon, and each of your open tabs will hover above the bar for your choosing.

It’s also more efficient. To end the annoying pop-ups, there’s a User Account Control window that lets you choose their regularity. Finally, recently visited pages are constantly recommended for quick navigation, like when you right-click on Explorer.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Windows 7 is built on top of the same platform as Vista, it has much of the pointless visual Vista hallmarks (transparencies anyone?), and it’s not quite Linux-thin. But the changes are positive and should fend off the vultures circling in the cloud for a few more years.

As long as the price is competitive for businesses (a valid concern), many will finally see a reason to leave XP and move up in class, especially if their workers use a netbook.

  1. But you didn’t really answer the anticipated question – what does it offer that XP doesn’t? Why would anyone dump XP for this?

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  2. As a Vista user, don’t dare drop XP! I’ll never buy a MS OS again unless it’s 10 years from now and has nothing related to “Vista” in it.

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  3. quote: “Microsoft’s OS market share dropped to a 15-year low of 89.62 percent last year, with the most gains coming from Apple’s OS X.”

    I think Windows market share is higher than 90%, most of the mac user I came across bought a mac coz it is cool, truth is, they boot into Windows using their brand new Mac. Given a choice, most Windows user would prefer to opt out from Apple OS X, they have no choice because it is bundled together with a Mac Hardware.

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  4. I must admit, I don’t understand what all the criticism of Vista is about. I just upgraded my desktop machine to Vista this past week. Its a Dell 4600 nearly 5 years old with a nice ATI Radeon 9800 that I bought back then for gaming. I upped my memory to 3 GB but that was only $50. I think it runs great. It seems snappy and I really like the UI changes. I bought an OEM full version from Amazon and started from scratch for ~$100. It runs MS Office 2003, VS 2005, Firefox 3, and putty, a real mix of old and new apps. What is everybody so upset about, I think its a great upgrade.

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  5. [...] Windows 7 is good news for small laptops, reports Gigaom. [...]

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  6. [...] more: For Tiny Netbooks, Windows 7 Is Good News Categories : News Tags : desktop, gigaom, internet, network, News, vista, web, webworkerdaily, [...]

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  7. [...] For Tiny Netbooks, Windows 7 Is Good News [more..] [...]

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  8. Agree with villager – why the F would I upgrade from XP? I tried Vista, it was the OS on my main computer for 9 months. I almost killed myself it was so buggy and irritating and terrible in every way imaginable. I downgraded to XP about a month ago and have been living happily ever after. XP ain’t perfect – but it’s not a buggy piece of shit like Vista, and there’s absolutely not one single thing in Vista or W7 that gives anyone any reason to upgrade. The people touting it are nothing but apologists.

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  9. only thing i use winDOZ is for playing games or open those silly sites which still run nice on IE (like my bank )…otherwise all my guys company have migrated to Ubuntu (which flies on my core 2 duo sony vaio laptop while Vista is painfully slow )or Mac …. running your business on mac or ubuntu/linux is absolute bliss ..no more virus ….no crashes ………….i simply love new kde 4.2 …….while all our servers run only on linux ……….i will only try windows 7 on new hardware in future ……if I dont find any XP related drivers….that too for playing games ……….point is windows will NEVER be primary OS for guys who have tasted Mac/Linux…though it still required to play games or just in case some app doesnt work on linux/Mac

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  10. The correct term is OEM systems, not embedded systems. Embedded systems are those such as Windows Mobile, Sync, etc.

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    1. Victor

      Thanks for the catch on this one. I appreciate it.

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