Windows 7: the Vista we always wanted?

feedbackLike most of my colleagues, I’m feeling pretty upbeat about the new Windows 7 beta. I think almost every one of its new features and tweaks is a step in the right direction, and it’s already replaced Vista on my PC.

Windows 7: the Vista we always wanted?

But what I find particularly encouraging is not just the code itself, but what it reveals about how Microsoft’s mood and methods have changed since the Vista launch.

For a start, Windows 7 shows every sign of arriving on time, or even early. That alone bespeaks a major improvement in Microsoft’s internal processes. Remember that Vista was originally intended for release in 2003, with a number of headline features that never, in the end, saw the light of day. Its successor, by contrast, is already so complete, and so stable, that many of us here at PC Pro are happily using it as our primary work OS.

What’s more, I think this is the most generous Microsoft beta programme I’ve seen. Anyone at all who wants to try Windows 7 can use the Ultimate edition – in either 32-bit or 64-bit flavour – absolutely free for almost eight months. I’ve had entire computers that didn’t last that long. And, since this beta installed smoothly as an upgrade from the pre-beta distributed at PDC, I’m hopeful that you’ll be able to transition just as cleanly from the beta to the final version when it arrives.

Waking up smarter

When you remember the “Mojave Experiment” of a mere six months ago, Windows 7 seems to represent a remarkable change of heart. The empty swagger of the run-up to Vista is nowhere to be seen. Microsoft seems finally to have recognised that its current woes stem directly from its own past arrogance, and that it can no longer take the patience and loyalty of its user-base for granted. It seems that the company really has, in Steve Ballmer’s deathless phrase, “woken up smarter.”

For it’s surely no coincidence that where Vista was criticised as sluggish and over-complicated, its successor is praised precisely for its responsiveness and simplicity. While Microsoft has been publicly brushing off criticism of Vista its developers have evidently got the message loud and clear – and have acted on it. Now, as our esteemed editor so neatly puts it, the product of their labours is “what Vista should have been.” No wonder they wanted to show it off as widely, and as early, as possible.

Stand and be counted

But though the beta is already here, we’re many months away from the final release. And that gives us all, as Windows users, a rare opportunity. Because if you’ve tried the beta, you’ll have noticed a little link at the top-right of most windows inviting you to “Send Feedback”. Click on it and you can beam your comments on any part of the OS directly to Redmond.

Generally I ignore links like that, and I’m sure you do too. But in this case I think it really is worth using it. I suggest you press it every time you have something to say about Windows 7 – be it praise, a complaint or a suggestion. Let the Windows team know exactly what they’ve got right and what they haven’t.

Because, for once, it looks like Microsoft really is listening. At this stage there may not be time for major code revisions, but there’s a lot they can still do to make Windows 7 the OS we actually want. Let’s help them get there, and not leave them to produce another Vista.

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