Windows 7

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  • Windows 7 set to outshine Windows 95 UI accolades

    It is true: Windows 7 will drive the single biggest renaissance in Windows application design since the debut of Windows 95 nearly 15 years ago.
    I came to this conclusion while perusing the updated Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines recently released by Microsoft in anticipation of the Windows 7 launch. As I poured over the various examples of Jump List variations and animated Taskbar icon overlays, it struck me just how much the Windows UI has evolved with Windows 7. For the first time in recent memory, I am actually excited at the prospect of seeing how third-party developers exploit the myriad new conventions.
    It wasn't always this way. Windows Vista revamped the UI's look and feel, but the changes were mostly skin deep: new dialog layouts, some tweaked button/control designs and, of course, Aero glass. Windows XP was likewise a yawner when it came to UI innovation. There were some new wizards and an updated visual skin (which was somewhat accurately described as having been "drawn in crayon"), but nothing that changed how you interacted with applications at a fundamental level.
    Contrast these non-examples with Windows 7 and you begin to see why this Windows version may have the same kind of lasting impact that its long-ago progenitor enjoyed in 1995. Back then, the concept of a "push button application switcher" (the Taskbar) was entirely new, as were the equally innovative Start menu and notification tray. Application developers practically tripped over themselves to exploit these innovations and to take advantage of Windows 95's 32-bit execution model. I predict a similar flurry of activity around Windows 7, as developers retrofit their offerings to provide the expected level of UI "freshness".
    Of course, not all is sunshine and roses with Windows 7. There's a real chance that these new UI conventions will simply widen the chasm that separates XP users from the current state of the art. The thought that you might need to upgrade your applications in order to fully realise Windows 7's usability benefits might be enough to give IT shops pause. In fact, the new UI may ultimately prove to be a liability as recalcitrant organisations latch onto it as yet another excuse not to upgrade. The old "retraining" bugaboo still has legs, especially in a struggling economy.
    And there is the issue of quality control. Developers have spent years figuring out what does and does not work under the "classic" Windows UI. Now, as they're presented with a box full of new visual toys to play with, there is a genuine risk that overeager developers will misuse the new conventions and deliver real clunkers that tarnish the platform's reputation.
    To its credit, Microsoft goes to great lengths in the guidelines to highlight the proper use of Windows 7's new UI conventions, including providing copious right-way/wrong-way examples. The question is, will developers take heed? As well, will the forces of intractability seize upon these and similarly nebulous objections as a way to once again postpone their migrations away from Windows XP?
    Time will tell, but I'm cautiously optimistic that Windows 7 will be a success and that we will see some real innovation with applications targeted at its unique UI conventions. In the meantime, developers would do well to peruse the aforementioned guidelines and avoid the kind of functional and visual blunders that have plagued so many of their predecessors. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

  • Microsoft revenue declines 17 percent in fiscal Q4

    Microsoft's revenue declined 17 percent and net income declined 29 percent year over year in its fiscal 2009 fourth quarter due to continued weakness in global sales of PCs and servers, the company reported Thursday.

  • Microsoft, Intel design Windows 7 to be speedy

    Collaboration with Microsoft could allow the software giant's upcoming Windows 7 OS to take advantage of multithreaded and multicore Intel chips for faster application performance, according to an Intel official.

  • What will Windows 7's successor be like?

    Windows 7 has finally been released to manufacturing. Suffice it to say, I'm not sad to see it go. After two public releases and nearly a dozen leaked builds, I'm sick of installing and testing what amounts to Vista R2. It's time to move on to the next version: Windows 8.
    Of course, we currently know nothing about Windows 7's successor. Microsoft isn't dropping any hints, and with Steve Sinofsky heading up the whole Windows platform, don't expect this to change anytime soon. But that doesn't mean we can't start speculating. Here are my top five predictions for Windows 8:
    Prediction 1: No more 32-bit. Microsoft has been juggling the whole 32-bit versus 64-bit equation for far too long. Maintaining dual code bases — even with copious source sharing between them — is a real waste of resources. We saw it first with Windows Server 2008 R2. Expect a repeat performance with Windows 8, which will be 64-bit-only.
    Prediction 2: Mesh is big. Microsoft's Live Mesh is a real sleeper technology. I expected big things from this hybrid local/cloud synchronisation framework for Windows 7, but Microsoft chose instead to focus on build quality. However, you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the coming months as Microsoft continues to extend Windows into the cloud.
    Prediction 3: App-V makes its mark. I've already declared Windows XP mode to be a brain-dead way of implementing legacy compatibility. However, given the time constraints associated with Windows 7, Microsoft chose the easy route and put off the hard work of integrating application virtualisation for another day. Expect to see App-V come to prominence as the company seeks to further abstract its legacy Windows APIs from the core OS.
    Prediction 4: Windows gets fatter. Forget all your MinWin fantasies. The reality turned out to be quite different — namely, the compartmentalisation of Windows layers to map and remove dependencies. Expect this work to continue with Windows 8, but for the core OS model — NT Executive supporting various runtime subsystem environments — to remain relatively unmodified. Windows 7 has shown us that incremental change is a good thing, especially at the kernel level. There's a reason why this latest iteration is so stable, and it has more to do with what Microsoft didn't change than any improvements it made under the hood.
    Prediction 5: Subscribe today. The days of the shrinkwrapped package are numbered. Microsoft is already flirting with electronic distribution of Windows via its pre-order programme. Expect this trend to continue, with Windows 8 available via a downloadable installer application that you receive after registering for you new Windows client subscription.
    Note: As with any predictions article, take the above with a grain of salt. After all, with Google's Chrome OS on the horizon, we may well find ourselves living in a Google-dominated world where the very idea of an OS that isn't web-based seems anachronistic.
    At least that's what everyone keeps telling me.

  • XP will be around a while yet, despite Windows 7

    According to a ScriptLogic study, 60 percent of all companies surveyed said they will not be moving to Windows 7 any time soon. Thirty-four percent said they'd probably deploy by the end of 2010, but even that number may be optimistic. This means that by 2011, for the first time ever, a 10-year-old operating system will still be the most-used desktop OS.
    Of course, Microsoft's licensing means that this unfortunate fact won't cut too deeply into the company's bottom line. While Microsoft's OS market may be stagnating, hardware is hardware, and it will fail and need replacing. That's when they'll manage to sell you yet another licence that can be downgraded to XP.
    As the recent support extension for XP shows, Microsoft does see that users aren't falling all over themselves to upgrade to Windows 7, just as they weren't for Vista. The fact that many seem to hail Windows 7 as a far better OS than Vista doesn't really make a difference – the real problem isn't that Vista or Windows 7 aren't ready for the enterprise, it's that for the vast majority of business cases, Microsoft XP with Microsoft Office 2000 is all that's necessary – possibly for quite some time.
    After all, why do you think that Office 2007 had a massive UI change? Because that was one of the only ways to differentiate it from Office 2003. The back-end stuff, like support for the OpenDocument Format, could have been added to Office 2003 as it was to Office 2007. Office 2007 was basically a "New and improved!" sticker on Office 2003.
    As far as business desktop computing goes, that's a novel idea. For the past 15 years companies have been upgrading constantly, moving from Windows NT 4 to Windows Server 2000 to Windows Server 2003 or, on the desktop, from Windows 95 to 98 to 2000 to XP. And that's where they sit.
    As a consultant during those fiery days, it was upgrade or die, and I was on the front line – the inherent problems in NT and 2000, and with Windows 95, 98, and 2000, made yearly upgrades essentially a requirement. If I had a dollar for every Windows NT-to-2000 migration, or Windows 2000-to-2003 migration I ever did – actually, I have more than a dollar for each one. Never mind.
    The reality is that in any industry that grows as fast as business computing has, there will come a point of "good enough". That's where we are right now. The vast majority of ISV applications in use support XP and still don't officially support Vista. Nine-year-old XP is still the sweet spot.
    I recently spoke with an IT manager who was budgeting for an Office 2010 upgrade from Office 2003. I casually asked him what features he had deemed important enough to justify a US$100,000 budget item. He thought for a minute and admitted that he couldn't think of a single one. So I asked the logical follow-up: Why are you buying it? He had no answer for that either. The $100,000 line item disappeared. He is also sticking with XP.
    This isn't Microsoft's fault, necessarily, unless you believe that they caused this by finally coming up with a somewhat stable and secure desktop OS (that statement includes a huge grain of salt). The company certainly did delay far too long in releasing Vista, which was late, slow, buggy, expensive and essentially DOA, and then compounded the issue by hyping Windows 7 a year before its release. This provided some cover for the Vista debacle, but also ensured that several more years would pass before most companies would move beyond XP – a modern-day example of the Osborne Effect. The economic downturn just solidified this situation.
    The past 15 years have been a whirlwind of innovation, expansion, invention, and production. The next 15 will be the same – but not in the same places. The corporate desktop is mature in both hardware and software. Same for servers and network architecture – very few companies actually need 10G. The new frontiers are portable productivity, interconnectivity and virtualisation. Unfortunately for Microsoft, they're far behind in those categories. After all, it's hard to quickly move in new directions when your saddlebags are full.

  • Windows 7 to feature XP mode for older applications

    Microsoft will include a feature that lets people run applications in a Windows XP mode on Windows 7 to ensure that applications not designed for the forthcoming OS can run on it, a company executive said Monday.

  • Windows 7 ramp-up will be sharp

    Just more than a year after it launches, Windows 7 will account for nearly half of all the client operating systems Microsoft ships to corporate users, according to forecasts by IDC.

  • Windows 7 free upgrade limit 'silly', says analyst

    Microsoft's limit on the number of computers eligible for free Windows 7 upgrades is "artificial" and "silly," an analyst said today, and may create just the situation the company hoped to avoid: stalled PC sales.

  • Microsoft dumps Windows 7 upgrades for EU

    Microsoft today told European consumers that they won't be able to do an "in-place" upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 when the latter ships this fall. In response, the company said it will sell full editions of the new OS at upgrade version prices.

  • Microsoft kicks off free Windows 7 upgrade programme

    Microsoft has pulled forward the start of its free Windows 7 upgrade programme so customers buying a new PC from today can upgrade to the new operating system for free.
    The company says anyone who buys a PC from a participating manufacturer or retailer, and which runs Windows Vista Home Premium, Business or Ultimate, will receive an upgrade to Windows 7 "at little or no cost".

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