Thoughts about Windows 7: What to look forward to

Posted by Rob Enderle, Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

Analyst Opinion - Windows 7 is the next big jump for Windows after Vista, Scheduled for a 2009 release, the software is driven by a largely new team, the organization building the product is significantly reorganized, and the processes used to create the offering are substantially revamped.   The end result is that this effort is unlike any that has preceded it.
 
Windows 7 is what we typically call a maintenance release.  A maintenance release is one that comes after a major release and fixes problems. Vista came with lots of problems. So, looking at the sheer volume of changes, is Windows 7 a major or a minor release?   

Regardless of where you or I come from, this product will be vastly different than Vista. I spent the day last Sunday with a lot of other folks in a deep dive on Windows 7 and if you are using Windows XP, and especially if you run Windows Vista, you will like what you will see with Windows 7.



User interface:  Much easier

Windows Vista was enough different from Windows XP to be annoying, but much of the change didn’t really seem to make anything better, it was just different. With Windows 7, things get a lot better. The task bar at the bottom, for instance, gets much simpler and more intuitive. Icons on the bar not only automatically expand to show all of the windows related to that application, but as you roll over the window the related page jumps to full screen.   


Devices:  Everything together

This was actually kind of cool.  By clicking on a device like a printer, you get a web page on the device that has all of the stuff on it like the manual, links to driver updates, attributes etc.  This clearly requires the device manufacturer to do their part or this won’t work. But I can quickly see folks returning devices that don’t have this and preferring those that do shortly after Windows 7 is launched. At least for new devices, this should work really well. Older devices, depending on the supplier, may be an issue.  

Media distribution:  Vastly improved

Whether you have media extenders, other media center PCs, or other types of devices like an Xbox 360 or PS3 that will play media, you will notice that is much easier now to get these devices to interact. If the device is Universal Plug and Play compatible, you only have to select the device in Windows 7 and drag and drop the song, songs, or playlist you want to be played. This will now work with a variety of music types including DRM free iTunes tracks. PC OEMs wanted consumers to use low cost PCs as media extenders and finally that will work with Windows 7. 

Connectivity:  Live integration

This will be the first version of Windows designed from the start to pull much of its value from the Web.  Windows Live is the largest portion of this and impacts communications features like Windows Messenger and Windows Mail. There could be an entire article on this alone, but a few things jumped out at me.

With Windows Messenger you can record your own emoticons using your face so, for instance, a wink is a video of you actually winking. With Windows Mail your email services and calendars can be aggregated on the same screen, and in the case of Outlook, you can look across them.  Think of aggregated contacts as vastly improved capabilities to sync and share all of your stuff - and integrate a number of different services, many of which are non-Microsoft like Facebook.
 

Crashes:  Self-healing

This was actually one of the coolest things, if an application crashes twice, Windows 7 will automatically apply a fix and the third time, assuming the fix works, the application should run without crashing. If an application fails to install a similar self correcting fix, another tool launches but this one asks some questions about the application. The example given was an application that was hard-coded for a previous version of Windows: By pointing this out, a correction was generated and the application then installed and launched all automatically.   


Performance:  Much more efficient

 
With Windows Vista, memory use grew with each window - until you ran out of memory, which generally causes the system to shut down Aero to conserve resources. With Windows 7, the memory use doesn’t grow with each Window, so you can go insane with the number of Windows you open.  Boot time is vastly improved as well: Windows Vista drivers and applications tended to load linearly which slowed down the boot time substantially based on the number of things that had to load.   With Windows 7, and given it comes when multi-processors are common, these same things load in parallel, which means slow loading things don’t prevent other things from loading at the same time. We put this on top of the roll out of Solid State drives during the time Windows 7 ships and, on new hardware, you should see a substantial jump in performance. Even on older systems, Windows 7 will be much faster than Vista ever was.  


Wrapping Up

I’m just touching the tip of an iceberg of changes in Windows 7. The time it took to walk us through this with questions was over five hours.  A typical product briefing is one hour, and in those five hours, they didn’t actually cover all of the improvements. It is interesting to note, that before there was Windows, the guidance for platforms was that, you waited until the maintenance release and not just the first service pack. This is because the maintenance release reflects the work of all of the early adopters and is vastly improved. Windows 7 is the Maintenance release of Windows Vista, and since it is largely the Vista code base, it should work on Vista hardware and run any application that ran on Vista.

It should, however, be faster, more reliable, and vastly easier to use than Vista was and that may, for many, make it worth waiting for.   


Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts.  Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them.  Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies.