Microsoft’s latest operating system Windows 7 opened to rave reviews last week. After the dismal performance of its earlier operating system Vista, Microsoft seems to be heaving a sigh of relief at the grand reception that its new OS has received.
PC makers are scrambling to offer Windows 7-based systems, including Netbooks, as they hope the operating system to spur PC sales. After skidding for six months, computer shipments have shown some improvements recently. Seems Microsoft is all set to further strengthen its grasp over computer desktops.
Not really! As many skeptics beg to differ. According to them, Vista too got high marks before its release as well, with writers praising the new visual design and glossing over quirks that later became common gripes.
Here’s looking into what may dampen Microsoft’s Windows 7 party.
Shifting from XP
One of the biggest complain that most analysts have is the lack of direct upgrade from XP, the operating system which still continues to run on almost 80% of the world’s computers. Windows 7 fails to offer a smooth transition from XP as there is no upgrade option. Users will have to go for a fresh install.
Writes Tony Bradley of PC World, “After the issues with Windows Vista, and knowing that the vast majority of users-both consumer and enterprise-are still relying on Windows XP, it seems like a direct upgrade path is a necessity. Many users may be frustrated by the lack of upgrade path and having to do a fresh install, reinstall all of the other software and migrate user settings. Microsoft has provided tools to ease the pain, but this is still the biggest opportunity for negative PR or backlash related to Windows 7.”
According to Microsoft, the upgrade option is not available in Windows 7 Setup when installing Windows 7 on a computer running Windows XP. However, users can use Windows Easy Transfer to migrate files and settings from Windows XP to Windows 7 on the same computer.
The basic requirements of a PC to run on Windows 7 are 1 GHz processor, minimum 1GB of RAM and 16GB hard drive space. This in simple words means any hardware that worked with Vista will work for Windows 7 too.
However, one of the most crucial reasons for Vista not succeeding was that the operating system almost forced a hardware upgrade on users. Hope the almost similar requirement does not hamper the prospects of Windows 7. It’s is also to be noted here that that the basic PC configuration has seen a jump since Vista days.
Hardware and Drivers support
According to Bradley, Windows Vista stumbled due to the lack of hardware and device driver support. He writes, “The vendors just weren’t ready when Vista was launched and Vista never really recovered from the damaged reputation even after most of those issues were resolved.”
It is not a great experience for users working on a new operating system to find out that their existing printer, wireless router, webcam, and other peripheral hardware devices don’t work with the new OS. This means either they stop working on that hardware or look for new hardware that is compatible.
UAC is still there!
The most controversial and much maligned feature of Vista, UAC or User Account Control is a part of Windows 7 too. The UAC was designed to prevent unauthorised execution of code by displaying a pop-up warning every time a change is being made to the system, whether by the operating system or a third-party application.
Many Vista users complained of being bombarded with the warnings. It proved a huge annoyance for users installing new applications frequently. Windows 7 now allows you to set the level of information that a user desires.
However, writes Bradley, “… still after much debate with the security community during the Beta testing, the default setting is still set to what users experienced with Windows Vista. Frankly, UAC serves a purpose and it is better to leave it alone. But, those who dislike UAC are going to have to go into the control panel and modify the configuration to their liking or be faced with the same pop-ups that annoyed the world with Vista.”
The failure of Vista continues to cast a deep shadow on the Microsoft’s fresh launch, especially among the business users. Most enterprise customers skipped Windows Vista reportedly due to the numerous technical glitches that the OS had. According to reviewers, the operating system suffered from frequent hangs and crashes, and incompatibility with certain software and hardware.
A section of analysts believes that `Vista’s reputation’ may hamper Microsoft’s efforts to convince enterprises about the Windows 7 improved features.
Ahead of the launch, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said that the company’s reputation never recovered from the poor performance of Vista. Ballmer said Microsoft’s reputation took a beating after the release of Vista in 2007, an operating system which caused computers to hang indefinitely, among many other technical glitches.
Price is seen as one of biggest issue that may dampen the Windows 7 release. Microsoft is charging $199.99 for the Home Premium version of Windows 7, or $119.99 for users seeking to upgrade from older versions of the operating system. However, India pricing seems to be comparatively low.
In India, the Home Basic package will cost about Rs 5,899, while the Windows 7 Ultimate (high-end version) will be available for Rs 11,799. In the US, the high-end version costs $320 (Rs 15,000).
Microsoft Vista Home basic costs around Rs 3,500, Home Premium version is priced at Rs 4,800. Microsoft Vista Business costs around Rs 6,400 while Microsoft Vista Ultimate is priced at Rs 9,500.
PC makers HCL Infosystems, Acer and Hewlett Packard have already started shipping Windows pre-loaded PCs and notebook computers. HP India will retail Windows 7-preloaded PCs between Rs 27,990 and Rs 90,000. HP’s preloaded Windows 7 notebooks will be priced at Rs 39,990 onwards.
Acer PCs with Windows 7 OS will be priced between Rs 15,000 and Rs 35,000, while the notebooks will be priced at Rs 21,000-Rs 70,000. HCL Infosystems’ Executive Vice President George Paul informed that HCL will price it between Rs 16,000 and Rs 55,000, whereas the notebooks would cost Rs 22,000-Rs 80,000.
Microsoft’s big release coincides with one of the worst phases in the global economy. The past few months have witnessed a downfall in the spending as cost-cutting became the mantra for businesses around the world.
Though most companies see a recovery on the horizon, they still see no big jump in corporate budgets. The companies globally continue to remain cautious and are tightly guarding their purses.
Certain analysts believe that the tough economic climate may impact the sales of Windows 7. At the same time, PC makers like Lenovo are betting on the new operating system to revive the falling computer sales.
Another big challenge for Microsoft is to deal with piracy. Even before the official release of Windows 7, authentic looking pirate copies of the OS were available in China for a mere $3.
According to Reuters, Windows 7 has been openly available in China’s grey market for over a month now. Shopkeepers in Shanghai’s Xinyang market are said to be offering all versions of Windows 7, in both Chinese and English for just 20 yuan ($2.93). This compares with the list price of up to $320.