The first advance reviews of Microsoft (MSFT) Windows 7 Beta are starting to circulate, and here’s what we know so far: It looks and feels a lot like Vista, but adds a handful of minor performance and UI improvements.
- Software and hardware that worked under Windows Vista will still work under Windows 7, hugely important in encouraging upgrades. Windows 7 install times are below half an hour, good for Microsoft.
- Some user-interface changes are in the works, most of them good. New are “Aero Snap,” which lets users minimize Windows by dragging them to the top of the screen, “Aero Peek” which temporarily hides open windows and shows the desktop (which sounds a lot like a feature already in Mac OS X), and a new taskbar Adrian describes as “kludgey and counter-intuitive.”
- Web browser Internet Explorer 8 and Windows Media Player both get improvements, but both still lag behind third-party alternatives already available.
The summary: “I like Windows 7, a lot. Microsoft seems to have put a lot of effort into developing a core operating system that is free from the pointless frills of the likes of XP and Vista. The OS is solid and fast.”
So call it a base hit: Windows 7 will probably do well at first — there’s pent-up demand from Windows users who have been avoiding Vista, and the new OS seems to have numerous worthy improvements. But in the long run, it sounds like Windows 7 is to Vista what Windows 98 was to Windows 95: Better, but not a game-changer.
And in the long run, Microsoft needs a game-changer. Slowly but steadily, the company has been losing market share and buzz to Apple (AAPL). And while we’ll probably upgrade to 7 from Vista in a heartbeat, there’s nothing yet coming out of Microsoft that changes that problem.
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