It’s finally over, the window’s Start Menu is gone for good (though here’s at least one way to get it back) in the next version of Microsoft’s venerable desktop operating system: Windows 8.
Welcome to the era of the Windows Start Page.
Whether one likes it or not, the transition from the existing mouse-centric, task & productivity based computing model to the future of touch, location & action-based computing has begun. This isn’t for the faint of heart, even though it is quite nice if you give it an honest try.
The new version of Windows launched last week in New York, with a glitzy two-part launch. Windows 8, presented in morning, and the Microsoft Surface in the afternoon. Both mark a new beginning for the company people love to hate.
I’ve been running various developer and consumer preview versions for the past year, and have seen an enormous amount of innovation and improvement along the way. With the release of Windows 8 Pro last Thursday, I finally loaded up the official public version of the OS, and I have to say I’m greatly impressed.
Along with these Win8 Previews, I’ve been running a couple of Linux distros as well. Namely, Ubuntu 12.04 and Mint 13 Cinnamon for comparison’s sake. While I too like the traditional desktop metaphor for office productivity work, I do have to admit that the new Modern UI is growing on me. I also happen to think that if a company would take either Ubuntu or Mint 13 Cinnamon under their wing and focus on the last remaining rough spots of either OS that Linux on the desktop could have a real, true shot. But it would have already have to have been underway by now, so that Linux desktop takeover is still a pipe dream.
In any case, the software company that has the most to lose in the game is taking the greatest risk right now. Windows 8 is technically excellent, but will the drastic UI change make people think “Vista” and shun a truly great OS upgrade all because of the fear for change?
Either way, Microsoft will remain in the game, but whether Win8 will be perceived as a “winner” or a “looser” is purely in the hands of the consumer.
I really hate saying that, but it’ll be true. Why? Because we’ll all compare them to the iPad.
The real problem will be two fold: Microsoft and Windows 7.
Yes, Win7 is a great improvement over Vista, is too big. Windows is too many things to too many people, used for too many purposes. It’s exactly what it needs to be though – a general purpose operating system. That is the very thing that makes it inappropriate for tablets, er excuse me, “slates”.
Secondly, Microsoft is interested in catching up, but they’re going to hamper the non-iPad tablet efforts in the market simply by being themselves. For the corporate customers, it’ll be another hardware choice that they get to support – !$@&! yay!
The reality is that a true tablet needs to do the basics quickly, easily, and reliably. That’s messaging, browsing, viewing, reading, and probably listening. Anything more than that is overburdening the system.
While we can debate whether the iPad does this well or not, the point I’m making is that Microsoft and their partners can’t compete in this market if Windows and/or Microsoft specifications are in the mix.
By the way, Microsoft has been down the tablet/slate road twice before. Windows Tablet PC was first and Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) was the other one, like the picture above of an Asus R2H Ultra Mobile PC from November 2006.
Photo credit: Josh Bancroft
So, with the first public beta of Windows 7, I thought I’d share a few of my initial observations and opinions on the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. My testing of Windows 7 is taking place on my production laptop – an Acer Aspire with a Intel Core Duo 1.8GHz, with 3GB RAM based on the Mobile Intel 945 Express Chipset that many “average” laptops are built around.
Having been a user, advocate, and professional using Microsoft’s operating systems for the last 20 years, I do have to admit that I can come across as a “fan boy” at times. These observations may be just another example of this tendency, but I do try to be as impartial as I can (Vista rocks), er… sorry.
I’ve only been running the Windows 7 Beta Customer Preview for about 32hrs at the time of this post, but I do have to admit that performance is better than Vista SP1. I haven’t run Windows XP on my laptop, so I can’t really compare it well with that OS. Simply put, it does appear to be a better performer than Vista.
Here is one area that a few people will get a chuckle, or maybe help me figure out my one issue. Most everything is working great, except… Outlook 2007. I had to run the application compatibility troubleshooter to figure out what was wrong. I ended up setting the compatibility to “Vista” to run it. I’ll come back to Outlook later this week to investigate the issue more. Other than that, I’ve had no problems with 3rd party apps and utilities from large and small vendors.
Windows Sidebar/Desktop Gadgets
IS GONE! This is probably one of the things that helps performance in my opinion. While I liked the utility of the Windows Sidebar in Vista, the extra screen real estate and the processor cycles just for the Windows Sidebar ate up RAM and performance.
Luckily, this isn’t the case in Windows 7! The gadgets that were helpful, useful, or just plain fun in Vista’s Sidebar now run right on the Windows 7 desktop. This is a great enhancement, and one that I was looking forward to. You can see a few Vista Sidebar gadgets shown running on the Windows 7 desktop.
Peaking is an uber-cool enhancement to Windows 7. Simply hover it the absolute bottom-right corner of the screen (shown in the 2nd screen capture below) and whatever windows you have open become transparent so you can see the desktop. Nifty to check the time, weather, or other gadgets you have on the desktop.
There are many great enhancements to the UI in Windows 7, and Microsoft seems to have focused on just making it all work together simply and easily. Of course, I thought that of Windows Vista as well, so take it for what its worth.
I’ve not had a chance to perform any significant testing that is network or file-system related. Areas that Vista had real issues on it’s initial release. I’ll be watching and testing for those as time goes by, but the first day has been a fun experience.
Since Windows 7 is running on my personal production laptop, I’ll be using it daily for all my usual tasks, and will probably drop a post when I run into things that are interesting or troublesome. I hope this gives you an idea of where Windows 7 is at so far. If you’re interested in experiencing it, I do think it’s stable enough for the average IT pro to use on a daily basis as you’d probably know what your getting into anyway. Good stuff.
It’s nice to have a new beta to play with. Microsoft’s released Windows 7 Beta 1 to the public, and I’ve got it downloading now. I’ve really enjoyed Windows Vista for the past 2+ years, and am looking forward to the updates that Windows 7 brings.
If you’re interested, you can head over to the Windows 7 Beta Customer Preview site and download the 2.8GB DVD to try out yourself.
Yep, Mike Nash announced it today on the Windows Vista blog. The next version of Microsoft Windows will be named: Windows 7
I like it, but then Iâ€™ve been accused of being a Microsoft fan-boy, so my opinion probably doesnâ€™t count. Itâ€™s a name anyway, and darn early for a Microsoft OS release at that. Not even in beta yet. The idea with Windows 7 is simplicity, and the name seems to fit fairly well.
At any rate, Iâ€™d like to toss a few ideas regarding W7 (can I coin an acronym this early?) at Microsoft that would make the next version a little bit better than Vista. These are mostly non-technical suggestions, but oneâ€™s Iâ€™d like to see at any rate.
- SKUs: Letâ€™s pare it down to 3 versions of W7: Basic, Home, and Business. Forget about anything else.
- Basic is just that and should be for UMPCs and Netbooks, etcâ€¦
- Home should have Media Center, Tablet support and a few other â€œfunâ€ things that used to be in â€œUltimateâ€
- Business is the standard business client with full Active Directory & corporate security functionality. It should also have Tablet PC extensions.
- Licensing: Home licensing should be made super-simple. Itâ€™d be great for home users to by a 3-Pack of â€œWindows 7 Homeâ€ licenses for $99 (US). How about a 5-Pack for $150 (US)? Sure, not all home users will need many of these license packs, but the positive PR from bloggers of low-cost upgrade license packs, reduced packaging materials & shipping of these is a great â€œgreenâ€ spin.
- Include the Windows Home Server client components on the Windows 7 DVD.
- Nice to see the duplicated â€œliveâ€ components being removed and available as free add-ons. Now do this with Media Player, Internet Explorer, and other non-essentials. You donâ€™t need to go open-source with Windows, but take out all the optional-extras that youâ€™ve been making us install by default. Make it so damn easy for Google, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, IBM, Bobâ€™s Computer Supply, etcâ€¦ to make available downloadable replacements for these. Then make the Live offering so damn good that everything else canâ€™t compare. A tall order, but one that is based on true competition and is what users what anyway. Can you imagine folks not complaining about IE or WMP? Wouldnâ€™t that be nice for a change?
- Publish all the hooks needed for 3rd party developers to create replacements for these and share them. Shout from the rooftops about it. make it simple and easy for any developer to find and use it.
- Create an installation routine that will include 3rd party components during the install of Windows 7. Let the user choose from an alphabetical list of choices, with no pre-set defaults. MAKE them CHOOSE one. Make it easy & free for 3rd party developers to get their wares in the list.
- Make all the “Windows Vista Ultimate Extrasâ€ that you were supposed to offer for
- Windows Vista Ultimate available at no charge as offerings from the Live site to any Windows SKU.
- Be 100% accurate when you share resource requirements to the average Joe.
Something Iâ€™d like Microsoft to get as well is that weâ€™re buying an operating system. Weâ€™re not buying a soup-to-nuts software suite. Iâ€™m not sorry to tell you that, that is all I want. Just like all I want from my broadband ISP (Cable in this case) is a simple, fast, pipe. Nothing else. Your value-add is the Windows Live stuff, so make that good.
Some of the early indications on Windows 7 is a new approach. Iâ€™m not sure it thatâ€™s true or just more spin like the last 20 years. Prove our suspicions wrong. If Windows 7 is really about â€œsimplicityâ€ than make it so â€“ make it OSX simple.
I know you can do it â€“ Iâ€™d just like to see folks as happy with Windows as Iâ€™ve been for nearly two decades.
Ok, Iâ€™m off my soap-box. Whatâ€™s your take? More spin? Stupid or great name? Do you believe the next version of Windows will be worth your time? Tell Microsoft what you think â€“ some of â€˜em are actually listening.