Windows 7 - Where did the world of pain go?

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

Clapton is god

Whether or not you class yourself as an I.T. professional, really depends on how many progress bars you sit and watch.  At least it certainly seems like it having seen a fair few of them in my years.  On the plus side it beats the old shrill whine of a tape deck rewinding to the start.
Imagine my shock – and pleasant surprise – that has greeted me with the installation on Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7, which is now out in Release Candidate form.  Let’s be really honest here, Microsoft has invested a lot of time and effort in making progress bars look pretty over the years, and for good reason, we all spend a lot of time looking at them.  It’s a mark of the wonder of the new OS that the progress bars don’t look different to the eye candy introduced with Vista, at least if they do I can’t say I’ve noticed (with the exception of adding progress to the taskbar icon).  I haven’t noticed, because I haven’t really seen that many of them frankly – the installation was just that much quicker than I’m used to.  In fact, I only had enough time to make a cup of tea, which has left me somewhat hungry.
I’ve just finished my third install of Windows 7 RC, which is available to the public for free (but unsupported) until the middle of next year (quality move Microsoft!).  Vista got a huge amount of bad press when it first came out, mainly because it was a resource hog, but also because it changed the UI about so much.  I personally found the complaints a bit unfair, the vast majority of issues were due to the complete rewriting and restructuring of the Windows Display Driver Model, ironically to stabilize the new OS and remove the dreaded blue screen of death, that was a source of much mockery since Windows 95.  Unfortunately, the hardware manufacturers drivers were not really up to scratch on the initial release, particular those from NVidia who were responsible for a ridiculous proportion of issues  with the new OS.  The second complaint was loudest from people who had grown used to the practices and dogmas dating back to Windows 95, and even, in some cases, Windows 3.1 and DOSMicrosoft really took a brave decision when they decided to pitch the new OS at new users, especially non-technical users, and the battering they took for it really spoke more about the techie community than it did Microsoft.

I’m not a Microsoft fan boy (I love my iPhone!), and I consider myself an uber-techie, but at least I recognise that the real goal of UI design is accessibility for people that aren’t techno literate, the rest of us should know how to use Google by now, if we can’t find that obscure, rarely used option!  Anyway, let me return to the post subject before I start a flame war.

Windows 7 is a wonderful release candidate.  Many will say it’s ‘What Vista should’ve been’, in the way the iPhone 2 is what the first generation should’ve been, and no-doubt the iPhone 3 will be the phone the iPhone 2 should’ve been… blah, blah, yawn.  It really is a silly argument if you ask me.  One of the reasons Windows 7 is so good, is the flawless driver installation – you really don’t have to think about it at all, it just works.  The reason the driver installation is so seamless is all the pain Vista went through two years ago, getting the hardware manufacturers to re-write their drivers to just work.

In the end though it’s a release candidate, and there are bugs.  Windows 7 is crippled by having to have the awful Internet Explorer 8, and there are issues with authentication and remote desktop, to name a few.  And I’ll be honest, I’ve seen a freeze here and there, but I’ve seen every pre-release version of Windows since 95, and this one is the best yet – I only hope that it gets the credit it deserves.