Today’s the big day for Microsoft’s client operating system crew – Windows 7 is now generally available:
Today Microsoft Corp. announced the worldwide availability of its new Windows 7 operating system. Windows 7 delivers on a simple premise: make it easier for people to do the things they want on a PC. The new operating system offers a streamlined user interface and significant new features that make everyday tasks easier and allow people to get the most out of computers of all styles and sizes.
Er, about those new Windows 7 features:
Best of all, Windows 7 represents a departure from Microsoft’s usual “success is measured by the length of the feature list” philosophy. This time around, it was, “Polish, optimize and streamline what we’ve already got.”
Rather like a service pack, eh? Yes there is new eye candy in Windows 7, but wariness of antitrust regulators forced some standard applications to be dropped along the way:
Finally, out of fear of antitrust headaches, Microsoft has stripped Windows 7 of some important accessory programs. Believe it or not, software for managing photos, editing videos, reading PDF documents, maintaining a calendar, managing addresses, chatting online or writing e-mail doesn’t come with Windows 7.
What kind of operating system doesn’t come with an e-mail program?
Instead, you’re supposed to download these free apps yourself from a Microsoft Web site. It’s not a huge deal; some companies, including Dell, plan to preinstall them on new computers. But a lot of people will be in for some serious confusion — especially when they discover that the Windows 7 installer has deleted their existing Vista copies of Windows Mail, Movie Maker, Calendar, Contacts and Photo Gallery. (Mercifully, it preserves your data.)
Some good news is that since Windows 7 is Vista SP3, the device driver model did not change and Vista device drivers will work for the most part on Windows 7. However, you really should hit Microsoft’s Web site and download the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to check your Vista system for incompatibilities before upgrading. For example, I have an Epson scanner that apparently needs an update.
Finally, if I seem a little grumpy about Windows 7 – I’m not really. It seems like the operating system Vista should have been and would have been if not for a development catastrophe. I fully expect that businesses who were reluctant to adopt Vista will rapidly get on board since the defects of usability and compatibility have been remedied (by time if nothing else in the latter case).
What I do find irritating is that Vista users are being charged for what is effectively a service pack. Through no fault of their own they purchased an operating system that wasn’t finished yet. Admittedly Vista SP1 and SP2 helped, but now that Vista is finally finished Microsoft has slapped a different brand on it and is charging for the upgrade.
Mary Jo Foley reports that Microsoft’s virtual XP Mode has been released to manufacturing and will be generally available with Windows 7 on October 22. You may recall that when Microsoft revealed XP mode for the first time in May, it appeared to be lagging Windows 7.
The idea here is for XP Mode to provide a 32-bit virtual XP machine on Windows 7 for running legacy Windows XP applications that for one reason or another did not run on Vista and presumably would fare no better on Windows 7. I have personally run into several small business applications that misbehave oddly on Vista (not counting the numerous device driver incompatibilities which XP Mode won’t fix) and I’ll be interested to see if XP Mode will help. Yes, the vendors that create these applications should fix them, but that is cold comfort for small business users that depend on them. The same also applies to larger enterprises that create their own applications in-house and have been daunted by the task of converting them to Vista/Windows 7.
Note that XP mode will only be available as an add-on for Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise customers who are using PC’s with microprocessors that support hardware virtualization (Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT) or AMD Virtualization (AMD-V)) and not all recent PC’s qualify. Ed Bott explains and provides an Intel list with some AMD lists in the comments. Moreover, even if your microprocessor supports hardware virtualization, your PC vendor has to support it in BIOS as well. If you absolutely need XP Mode, you might well be better off waiting to buy a machine with it preloaded unless you are willing to wade through the swamp.
It’s been an exciting nine months since we launched the Google Chrome browser. Already, over 30 million people use it regularly. We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
The Chrome OS is based on Linux and will run on both x86 and ARM microprocessors and Google claims to be "working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year." Google’s vision is of a Web operating system running a browser and running Web applications within that instead of traditional PC applications. As for overlap with Google’s Android operating system seen mostly on cell phones, here’s the official delineation:
Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems.
Assuming that Google’s vision of a Web operating system and applications appeals to budget netbook buyers as much as shaving the Windows XP license fee, it will definitely impact Microsoft’s Client operating system business which has already been hit by netbooks running the low-priced Windows XP instead of Vista.
However, that is a big assumption since many netbook purchasers are buying them as cheap notebook PCs and expect to run the usual local PC applications (open source or otherwise). As for regular notebook and desktop PC buyers, it harks back to the Linux versus Windows competition for client PCs which so far has not been overly kind to Linux. Still, Google gets points for making things interesting for Microsoft and perhaps they will actually make inroads onto Microsoft’s turf.
Ed Bott has been doing some sleuthing in the license agreements contained in beta builds of retail versions of Windows 7 Home Premium and spotted an interesting cluse:
“If you are a ‘Qualified Family Pack User’, you may install one copy of the software marked as ‘Family Pack’ on three computers in your household for use by people who reside there.”
Microsoft is, of course, enamored of 3 copy "family pack" discounts as witnessed by the now defunct Windows Live OneCare and the Microsoft Office Home and Student edition, but Windows is a different commodity since it is rarely purchased at retail – it usually comes with a PC.
While a Windows 7 family pack might make sense for the few folks still into assembling their own systems, it’s hard to see why Microsoft would bother with an offer like this unless it were to sell a family pack of upgrades to Windows 7 from Vista. If priced correctly that would partially ameliorate my complaint that Windows 7 upgrades should be free for current Vista users.