Friday, June 5, 2009

What Will Be In Windows 7 When It Ships?

I am enjoying Windows 7 in its current Release Candidate form. Unfortunately, Microsoft has decided that to split it up into five different versions—two less than the number of versions available for Windows Vista but still at least two too many in my opinion. ZDNet has an excellent article explaining the differences between the different versions. But it also makes me wonder why I should bother giving more than a second thought to choosing which version of Windows to use. I have installed Windows 7 on three of my computers and it runs just fine. (Granted, there have been bugs and I haven't tried to install it on anything with less than 2GB of RAM.)

When the time comes to buy an actual version of Windows 7 what will I have to do? Buy the Professional Edition for my home server and my laptops I suppose. But I don't really see much use for the other versions. According to the ZDNet article, the netbook oriented Starter Edition won't be as bad as we've been led to believe. At least Microsoft removed the three application limit from it. The lack of DVD capability isn't too big of a deal, Microsoft's media player sucks anyway. One of the first things I do on a new Windows computer is install better media players like Gomplayer, VLC, and Media Player Classic Home Cinema along with the excellent ffdshow tryouts and Haali Media Splitter codecs. It may seem like a pain but with these applications, I can play just about any DVD and video file around.

But the Windows 7 Starter Edition will also restrict the hardware it will be allowed to run on and limit personalization options by not allowing you to change the desktop background or system sounds. ZDNet doesn't think that this is a big deal but I've always believed that personal computers should be personal and would see this as a downgrade from my XP powered netbook. One of the reasons Windows XP remains popular long after Micrsoft released a successor OS is because of the rise of netbooks. If Microsoft thinks it can change that by selling a merely semi-crippled version of Windows 7, it might find itself supporting its older OS for a long, long time.

All in all, it looks like Microsoft is poised to repeat one of the mistakes it made with Vista by releasing too many versions of its OS which ultimately confuses consumers. While it is being careful to scale back its hardware requirements for lower end machines—another big mistake that Microsoft made with Vista was trying to push it onto machines without the memory or processor power to run it well—it may also wind up making those machines unpleasant to use. If someone finds a computer unpleasant to use, they don't just throw it away, they try to figure out a way to fix it first. Whether this means installing an alternate OS like Ubuntu Linux or and older OS like Windows XP, it's a stumble by Microsoft.

And not many people feel bad for Microsoft when it stumbles.

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