Windows 7: Microsoft says "No Looking Back"

Wednesday Oct 1st 2008 by Ronald Barrett
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The upcoming Windows 7 release will have at least two new key features that will move the OS forward.

If the Mojave experiment didn’t get you out there buying a new Windows Vista system, and the Seinfeld/Gates ads didn’t have you lining up at your local Office Max, perhaps the latest Windows 7 tidbits will bring you back to the “Windows without Walls” world.

We sit and await the inevitable with the PDC and WinHEC conferences coming up soon. All eyes are on the news about Windows 7. We sit in expectation of everything from new screenshots to release dates. Windows 7 has been splashed across the trade magazines, Internet and blog sites like crazy the past few weeks.

In fact, it seems like everywhere I turn there is a story either about the markets plummeting or Windows 7 (not necessarily in that order).

Throughout the industry these days, Windows users wait to see if Windows 7 truly takes a step in the opposite direction of Windows Vista. How different it will really be is still open to debate. But two very notable changes are in the works for Microsoft’s newest offering.

First, it has been announced that Microsoft’s Windows 7 will not include the customary “backwards compatibility” that previous versions of Windows (including Vista) have had built into the operating system.

Now before you get ready to take a sledge hammer to that XP system of yours and do something crazy (like go out and buy a Mac), this is not a bad decision. This move no doubt comes in response to user complaints about how bloated and slow Vista is on their new PC’s.

In Windows Vista, Microsoft used a process of creating a massive store to house the differing versions of the DLL libraries. When older software is installed and calls for a certain DLL the store goes and finds the proper version for that software to run on Vista. Of course that means that the store of libraries is quite large (several GB’s actually).

Windows 7 will not be binary compatible with older versions of Windows. Instead, it will use virtualization for running these older programs. Trimming down the number of libraries that need to be loaded in the operating system will trim down the overall size of the operating system and no doubt create better performance.

In fact that is the drive behind this initiative: better performance from the operating system as well as faster applications from developers who will not need to worry about being backwards compatible to older versions of Windows.

Upgrading for Windows 7 users, though, will not be without pain. It is doubtful without any binary compatibility that there is any upgrade path at all.

So the performance increases will come with some difficulty, but here is where you need to make a choice:

Do you want a faster operating system or a backwards compatible operating system?

How this will play out will be an interesting scenario. As an IT professional myself, I would love an opportunity to walk into management and tell them we need to get rid of all the old stuff to get this new version of Windows with new applications that will outperform anything we could imagine.

Can you see how that will go with most organizations, especially in a market climate that is yo-yoing day-to-day?

As I said, it will be interesting!

The second change that has come to light was first reported by CNET News.

Microsoft has made the decision to remove Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Mail and Windows Movie Maker from the operating system. Microsoft has instead opted to offer separate Windows Live versions of the software to replace these programs.

Now from an Administrative perspective this makes complete sense. For years I have been trying to understand why we would include Movie Maker, Photo Gallery or even (for XP systems) Messenger.

I understood the Outlook Express and Windows Mail programs, since we did have some organizations that would not opt for Microsoft Office. The latter two would provide at least some semblance of Outlook.

However, the need to separate the corporate versions of Windows from the home user versions is long overdue. I cannot even count how many home systems I have come across where users are not even aware of what some of those applications do, or that they are even there.

Without a question we are seeing a step away from the “status quo” and I am convinced that this has a lot to do with “luke-warm” reception Microsoft received for Windows Vista.

Now I have made it no secret that I like Windows Vista. However, I can understand why people are taken back by it as well. I believe Windows 7 will look to alleviate some of that negative feeling and these moves are definitely taking a large step in that direction.

I echo the sentiment of one of my colleagues, J. Peter Bruzzese, who wrote an article in response to Vista being another Windows Me. Peter pointed out that although Windows Me was reviled, in fact many of the great features that we loved in Windows XP had their birth in Windows Me.

Windows Vista has added some great new features to the Windows operating system including UAC (even if you hate it you know it is a great feature), Bit Locker and Windows meeting space. These are some truly enterprise-class applications that will no doubt return and come to be appreciated in the near future.

As we await the news about Windows 7 and hold on with bated breath to see what else it will change (or leave the same), one thing is for sure: this operating system looks like it will be a faster, performance driven and an apparently trimmed down version of Windows.

Let’s hope that the product lives up to all the hype we have seen thus far. It would be nice to have that warm fuzzy feeling we all felt when we first saw Windows XP. Here’s hoping we can bring back some of that nostalgia.

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