Windows 7 Shows Microsoft Hasn't Learned Vista Lessons - InformationWeek

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12:03 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall

Windows 7 Shows Microsoft Hasn't Learned Vista Lessons

The project was called MinWin, a Microsoft effort to slim down the next version of Windows. The company said it had heard, loud and clear, that another bloated OS like Vista wouldn't fly. Then Windows 7 galumphed into the room.

The project was called MinWin, a Microsoft effort to slim down the next version of Windows. The company said it had heard, loud and clear, that another bloated OS like Vista wouldn't fly. Then Windows 7 galumphed into the room.Microsoft is spending much of this week offering glimpses of its next operating system at the All Things Digital Conference. If the previews are any indication, MinWin has joined BOB on the ash heap of Redmond's abandoned projects.

Indeed, Windows 7 looks like it's going to include many of Vista's useless CPU and memory hogging "features" and then some. In other words, it will be time to upgrade the hardware again when Windows 7 ships in the next year-and-a-half or so.

(Memo from Intel CEO Paul Otellini to Steve Ballmer: "Thanks again, pal.")

Exhibit A: The "Multi-Touch" technology that Microsoft plans to offer in Windows 7. As my colleague J. Nicholas Hoover reports, the technology is designed to allow users to open and close windows, launch applications, and perform other functions by touching the screen and using an assortment of hand gestures.

That's uh, interesting, if it works; the history of failed direct input technologies is long and inglorious.

But, like Vista's seldom used Flip 3-D interface, it's nothing more than a resource-hungry novelty that will be used infrequently by people who spend most of their day on a PC. It's simpler, faster, and ergonomically better to use a mouse for most functions.

Microsoft also previewed another gimmicky new function in Windows 7 called Concierge, which is basically a circular pop-up menu. Whoa, that's worth buying another 2 GB of RAM!

So what's the harm? Users not drawn to such bells and whistles can just turn them off, right? That's only partly true. Vista requires considerably more processing power and memory than Windows XP, whether or not you use all its features.

And most users don't want or all these googahs, especially if they require hundreds of dollars worth of additional hardware. In fact, computer users -- in business or at home -- in general want a machine that can handle word processing, e-mail, and the Internet, and that's about it.

That's why Wal-Mart's $199 Linux PC sold out within days of its appearance on the retailer's Web site. That's why a story I wrote about a software tool that lets users strip all the gunk from Vista proved to be one of our most popular articles of the year.

Microsoft appears to be in denial about all of this, if early glimpses of Windows 7 are any indication. The company once again has adopted the kitchen sink approach to OS design. MinWin, apparently, was nothing more than a science fair project.

Microsoft's problem is that its business model has come to rely on selling operating systems that cost more than the hardware on which they reside. It knows this can't be sustained indefinitely, there's too many new options in the marketplace. Apple is resurgent, Google's eyeing the desktop, and there's those Wal-Mart Linux PCs.

But Ballmer and company have apparently decided that they can sell a few more big fat operating systems until they get this whole Internet thing figured out (or buy their way into it).

It's a risky strategy. (Otellini to Ballmer, circa late 2009: "Steve, the users are revolting!" Ballmer to Otellini: "Tell them to bathe!")

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