Windows 7 Is Microsoft's Opportunity to Get Vista Right
Is Windows 7 just an update to Vista?
Of course it is!
Microsoft has said all along that Windows 7 is going to be more compatible with Vista then Vista was with XP. In the computing world, the only way to do this is to keep changes to a minimum. Changes break applications and drivers, because they are expecting a specific input or connection that is now moved - or worse, missing. It is impossible to design an application to be ready for some future interface that is not yet designed or implemented.
Picky, Picky, Picky
I recently got a new PC at work, and I have suffered through the issue of computer applications not working when something is in the wrong place. for example, most applications get installed on the C: drive in the Program Files folder. One old program refused to run unless installed under C: root. It simply couldn't find its own files if they weren't exactly in the right location.
This is not a problem normally found on a Mac, which has a history of letting you install applications where you like. Unix and Linux are the opposite and can require a very specific filesystem hierarchy standard for applications to follow.
Stumbling Out of the Gate
The problems with the launch of Vista were nothing new to longtime Mac users. We can remember the introduction of Mac OS X 10.0. I remember all the bad reports and the fact that Mac OS 9 was much faster.
I skipped over OS X 10.0, 10.1, and 10.2. It wasn't until 10.3 that things started to settle down. Even then, I would dual boot into OS 9 on occasion and be surprised at how much faster it was. OS X is a much bigger resource hog than OS 9, and to this day I think networking was better under OS 9.
Yet here I am happy to use OS X and almost never give a thought to using OS 9.
What changed? Apple kept making improvements, adding underlying technology (Core Audio, Quartz, Bonjour, POSIX compliance, etc.) to take more advantage of newer, more powerful hardware. Eventually the hardware and the software caught up.
Microsoft's Opportunity for Redemption
Microsoft has the same opportunity, but it oversold Vista and created a lot of bad karma in the process. It is looking to change the name to Windows 7 and start over. In their favor, the available hardware will be faster when it launches, and Microsoft will do a better job setting system requirements. And a relaunch under a new name will give them that fresh start.
It's okay that Windows 7 is just an update to Vista. You may think that sounds like a rip-off (a common concern for cheapskate users), but Microsoft will spend a billion dollars over the next year sprucing up the fundamentals, and marketing will spend $300 million revamping the image of Windows.
Ease of Transition
Apple was better at providing users the means to slowly but surely switch over to the newer OS. Apple provided Mac users a way to continue using OS 9 in a virtual environment as third-party software caught up, and they used to provide a copy of OS 9 with each copy of OS X sold.
None of this backward support was provided for Vista, so many users found it easier to stay with XP. On top of that, Microsoft left the barn door open by offering business vendors a way to downgrade to XP - a nice way to sell the more expensive Business and Ultimate versions of Vista, but Microsoft didn't provide an easy way to switch from XP to Vista later on without doing a full install.
Imagine if Vista came with a copy of XP and if virtualization was enabled to let you run XP in a separate window without exiting Vista. Users would have been happy and Vista wouldn't be the black mark on Microsoft's reputation.
This shows how badly Microsoft handled the transition to Vista - in order to instill confidence it has to drop the Vista name. As bad as OS X 10.0 was, Apple didn't have to come up with a new name to hide its first release. (In a few years, none of this will matter - as long as Microsoft doesn't screw up a second time.)
With Macs selling like crazy and Linux gaining a toehold in the netbook market, Microsoft simply cannot afford to screw up again. To steal a line from Apple, you'll see why 2009 won't be like 2006 (cue throwing the hammer).
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