Microsoft is hoping to kiss and make up with Windows 7.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Forget Vista -- Microsoft will have a replacement soon

Jan. 4, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   Microsoft is hoping to kiss and make up with Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista, when it introduces the new version of Windows later this year.
   Vista, itself the successor to Windows XP, arrived five years late and never recovered from the initial bad press brought on by Vista's whack-a-mole design. In addition to an annoying series of confirmations users had to navigate to install software, Vista disappointed many Windows users by failing to work properly with various printers, scanners and other devices.
   And Microsoft's goal of freeing Windows users from the constant threat of viruses and spyware got nowhere in Vista, either. Nor was the company able to combat the escalating threat of botnets, in which home PCs are hijacked and linked in illicit nighttime networks to relay spam, viruses and other malware. Shadowserver, which tracks botnets, estimates that there were 177,000 operating as of December, some with as many as 80,000 hijacked Windows PCs. (Others have estimated that single botnets can contain more than a million Windows PCs.)
   To rush a more robust version of Windows to market, Microsoft worked quickly and came up with a better version of the Windows operating system. Another change, one with some psychological significance, came along for the ride. Instead of a wimpy name like "Vista" (or the Dr. Suessian "Windows Me," from an earlier time), Microsoft returned to its old habit of numbering all the versions of Windows. The next one is simply Windows 7, and is expected next December.
   What will Windows 7 be like? In some ways, it will look like Apple's Mac operating system, OS X (called "Oh Ess Ten"). At the bottom of the screen will be a Mac-like dock instead of the old Windows taskbar. This will show "live" views like the live icons you can see on a Mac, so that the video your sister-in-law e-mailed you will keep playing, in miniature, even when it's minimized to a small icon at the bottom of the screen.
   There will be a "liquid" look to Windows 7, like Apple achieved with the Mac's OS X. And Microsoft is adopting Apple's approach to the confirmation conundrum, asking users to confirm changes only when it's really necessary.
   Other improvements include quicker installation of Windows 7 -- a boon to everyone upgrading from porky old Vista to the sleek new version -- as well as a faster boot up once everything is installed. Windows 7 also will let you work with a multi-touch display, which can translate such gestures as finger swipes into commands to push items off the screen, for example. Microsoft follows Apple's lead on this, too; Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch do this now.
   Many changes are minor, but it's not clear yet whether one of the most called-for improvements will appear. That's improved security, something Microsoft has yet to get right. I'm convinced that Microsoft has to take the bitter pill Apple swallowed and engineer a totally new and safer operating system -- one built, like OS X, on a secure foundation -- but I've seen no movement in that direction. Until that happens, security is likely to remain the biggest failing of Windows.