Is Microsoft Windows 7 the Obama of the OS World?

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Change is a powerful force, especially when that change is for the better. Can Microsoft Windows 7 bring positive change to Microsoft’s status in the operating system (OS) market and help bring the shine back to the company's tarnished reputation as a market mover?

With the arrival of the release candidate of Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft has confirmed that they intend to go full speed ahead with a campaign to win the hearts and minds of PC users. Of course, the hype has been building behind Windows 7 already - but the question remains, can Windows 7 undo the failed practices of the last eight years of Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista?

While "failed practices" may be an unfair criticism leveled upon Windows 7’s predecessors, the term does highlight the perceived security flaws, slow performance and usability concerns that plagued the collective conscious of the IT world. While XP was seen as a vast improvement over Windows 2000, XP still had its critics. Interestingly, XP did not come into full favor until the Vista debacle took hold and forced users to backtrack to Vista’s predecessor.

Most of the failings of Microsoft’s operating systems fall under the umbrella of perception. But the truth of the matter was that none of those OSes were all that bad -- including Vista. The problem is perception is what sells products, not actual capabilities. Naturally, Windows 7 is seen as the heir apparent to the Microsoft Operating Systems kingdom and the product does have its work cut out for it. Much like the Obama administration, Windows 7 will have to hit the ground running and rapidly correct the failings of the past.

Windows 7 does help to undo the legacy of its predecessors. Build 7100 of the Release Candidate shows that Microsoft has listened to the criticism leveled upon Vista and incorporated significant changes into Windows 7. Enough so that many XP stalwarts may be attracted to the promises offered by Windows 7, skipping Vista altogether.

Here at Channel Insider, we installed Build 7100 of Windows 7 onto several systems for testing, and the results indicate that Microsoft is on the right track and that Windows 7 is very close to becoming a shipping product. We encountered few, if any, issues with the operating system, and we were pleasantly surprised at how well Windows 7 installed on our test systems. For the most part, all of the hardware was correctly identified and the appropriate drives were automatically installed.

In an attempt to confound Windows 7, we installed the product on a Fujitsu T5010  Tablet PC, which incorporates a significant amount of proprietary hardware. Windows 7 was able to identify all of the major components and install correctly. Drivers were automatically loaded for the Wacom enabled tablet screen, built-in Intel Turbo Memory, wireless (WiFi & Bluetooth), integrated web cam and even the biometric fingerprint sensor. All of those components worked as expected and there was a perceivable improvement in performance; the system booted and shutdown much quicker, and applications launched faster. We tested the performance of the system using the 64 bit version of PassMark Performance test, and the system garnered a PassMark rating of 750.4, a significant improvement over the 630 score achieved using Windows Vista Business Edition.

While performance is an important consideration, Windows 7 improves upon the user experience in several other areas. Windows 7 behaves like Vista in many ways – it has a similar look and feel, yet a number of annoyances are greatly reduced.

Those looking for major differences between Windows Vista and Windows 7 will be disappointed, Windows 7 shares many of Vista’s features and capabilities, but has enhanced those elements significantly. For example, the Start Menu is almost identical between the two operating systems, as is the control panel applet and the system properties applet – except that those elements all have a cleaner, more organized feel to them.

Digging down through the various settings menus and tabs also shows an improvement in design – The system properties applet uses a more logical approach for system settings and offers better descriptions for critical elements, as well as more comprehensive help.

Many of the changes in Windows 7 were created to address user complaints about Windows Vista, the biggest complaint being User Account Controls. Here, Microsoft has made it easier to adjust the level of warnings and notifications. Those changes allow users to "quiet down" security warnings, but at the expense of not warning the user of potential security problems. A trade off that individual user will have to consider, before minimizing security warnings.

There are other minor changes and enhancements throughout Windows 7, many of which are subtle, while others were sorely needed – such as the enhanced backup functions and system repair updates. If one were to summarize what Windows 7 is all about, it would most likely come down to "it is what Vista Should have been ".




Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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