Windows 7: It’s Vista without the dodgy bits
Next Thursday, Microsoft releases Windows 7, the latest update to its flagship product.
So far, the world is finding it pretty easy to ignore, other than its widely-parodied suggestion that you welcome the new product with a party.
You suspect Microsoft almost wants it this way, given the colossal flop that was Windows Vista.
Microsoft has never been noted for inventing cool things, so it was no surprise that Vista was not exciting and did not lead the industry in new directions.
What was surprising was just how poorly Vista performed on the average PC, a fact reflected in the business community generally shunning the product in favour of its more stable predecessor Windows XP.
For a company that rakes in more than $US50 billion a year and spends 10% or more of that on research and development, Vista’s cool reception was a significant embarrassment.
The company is therefore hoping that Windows 7 finds a more favourable reception, and for what it is worth it is certainly more pleasant to use than Vista.
It installs easily, has a prettier interface than Vista, adds some nice new security features and does not ask users to buy a souped-up new PC to access its best features.
There’s nothing exciting in that, for two reasons. One is that Windows 7 is Vista done right, so the changes are more cosmetic than under the hood.
The second reason there’s little excitement is that the desktop computer is not where the action is these days.
Instead, the computer industry is trying to figure out how to deliver exciting products that take advantage of “cloud computing,” the new idea of using massive computer farms (called “data centres”) to store data and deliver applications.
There are plenty of cloud computing services out there to try. Hosted email services like Gmail and Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail ($US50 billion obviously does not buy talented branding consultants) demonstrate the concept.
New services like Animoto, a great free tool that takes your digital photos and turns them into slideshows, show new dimensions to cloud computing by offering powerful applications that run inside a web browser, instead of on a PC.
Animoto and its ilk show that a computer does not need to be super-powerful to be fun to use.
Google is betting that operating systems like Windows 7 are on the way out and plans to create “Chrome OS”, an operating system for computers that consists of a web browser and nothing else.
Even Microsoft is having a bet each way, as it plans versions of its popular Office software that will run inside a browser.
What does this mean for the average PC user? If you dislike Vista, the upgrade to Windows 7 will be worth it. If you’re buying a new PC, be thankful that it will come with Windows 7, not Vista.
But if you want to be on the bleeding edge, check out the burgeoning world of cloud computing, because that’s where the action is in technology today.
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