Microsoft bets on Windows 7 heaven

October 21, 2009

Matthew Bath

-Matthew Bath is technology editor at Which? The opinions expressed are his own.-

Microsoft’s Windows operating system has been frustrating and delighting computer users in almost equal measure since it was first debuted by the software giant first in 1985. Fast forward through nearly a quarter of a century of powering the majority of the world’s personal computers, and Windows is about to hit another milestone.

Windows 7 launches on October 22, worldwide, and it’s safe to say that, as a firm, Microsoft will be collectively crossing fingers and toes that shoppers flock to the new version.

The successor to its Windows Vista operating system, Windows 7 promises to be faster, more reliable and make computing simpler than ever – so much so that like a proud parent, Microsoft hosting worldwide coming-of-age parties to help launch Windows 7 onto PC desktops worldwide.

Yet the key question is whether consumers, already stung by what many found a problematic Windows Vista, are as willing to take a punt on this latest version.

Certainly, it’s chalking up record sales – and Windows 7 has overtaken Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to become the biggest grossing pre-order on of all time, and the online store says demand for the new operating system remains strong.

So why are shoppers pre-ordering in droves? Partly, it’s because Microsoft fumbled the ball with Windows Vista, leaving some users frustrated and fed-up with an operating system that felt sluggish and crash prone. A chance to jump to a shinier ship is welcomed. Partly, last time lots of people stayed away from the Windows Vista party following negative reports, remaining with the perfectly functional Windows XP instead.

The surge in sales tells only part of the story, however. Which? has talked with shoppers who tell us they are confused by Microsoft’s different versions (with six different prices at the last count), and there are lots of questions around whether the upgrade really is worth the hassle.

Certainly, a lot of the features seem fairly cosmetic on the surface, and some will appeal to only a handful of users. If you’re one of the chosen few to own a touchscreen PC and monitor, then the new multi-touch features in Windows 7 will have you clapping (and pinching and swiping) your hands with glee as your monitor turns into the equivalent of an outsized Apple iPhone.

Other features – such as easier home networking and interface tweaks to make navigation simplier are all good, but seem slight. Rather, Microsoft has been significantly reworking the technology that happens under the hood of Windows, making it less crash prone, faster, and hopefully a better experience.

If you’re happily using Windows Vista, though, then there really isn’t a compelling reason to upgrade as the new features are hardly lengthy.

And if you’re using Windows XP, then Microsoft has a different message for you: your PC is unlikely to run Windows 7 well, and you’ll have to fork out for a new computer. That’s an expense in these economic times that many consumers might find a little tough to swallow.

And, finally, amidst all Windows shopping it’s easy to forget that most new operating system launches are hit with bugs, glitches and incompatible software. That’s normal, but not any less frustrating.

So, if you are looking longingly through the Microsoft-shaped window, our advice is clear. Resist the temptation to upgrade straight off the starting blocks and wait for Microsoft and other software makers to find and fix the niggles and bugs, then feel free to jump in to Windows 7.


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Very interesting writeup
‘don’t buy to eagerly’

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

I’m still waiting for Microsoft to return to some of the features of Windows 3.1.
When will they realise that many users want a logical and ordered interface they can arrange THEMSELVES… as Program Manager used to do. I don’t want to be told where to put my Documents, Music, Pictures etc.
I also want to know exactly WHERE all the files go when I download something.
I also don’t want to be treated like a child and told that I mustn’t touch certain items. Give me a warning perhaps but don’t block access.
I also so want backwards capabilities so all my old software will still function. Many of my best programs are some of the oldest: simple and functional with not too many bells and whistles.
I doubt very much whether Windows 7 will begin to address any of these points.

Posted by Bertie Fox | Report as abusive

Why do people even think about buying any more microsoft windows? Pay a little more for a future-proof computer – a MAC. The operating system costs £25 for the latest version. It doesn’t crash, doesn’t need all those frequent and complex updates to “fix” things, and if you MUST run windows (maybe you have some expensive windows programs) then you can run both systems on the latest MAC. Your MAC of today will be with you many many years longer than your newest pc! Do not believe the doom mongers – with a little patience you will master the MAC within ten days at the outside and you’ll never look back: it may cost more to buy but the running costs far outweigh the negatives.

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

Five reasons why you shouldn’t upgrade to Windows 7

1 It’s not finished

Windows 7 has been thoroughly tested but only after its release worldwide will any bugs be obvious. It will be sensible at least to wait until a service pack irons out the teething troubles.

2 It’s expensive

Windows 7 starts at £69.99 for the basic version — considerably more expensive that Apple’s recent Snow Leopard upgrade, which retailed at £25. It’s money you probably don’t need to be spending — in most instances the functionality offered is something that you will already have set up if you need it. It might be better to wait until you buy a new computer and get a pre-installed copy.

3 It could be complicated

There are four versions of Windows 7, so you’ll have to choose the right one for you. Installation can be time-consuming, especially if you’re upgrading from XP to Windows 7, and it can throw up unexpected hassles.

4 Alternatives

Google’s “Chrome” operating system for netbooks, Apple and Linux all offer viable alternatives, either now or soon; just because Windows 7 is the Microsoft improvement doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the one for you.

5 Bide your time

Computing technology is moving online. Operating systems are only going to become lighter and smaller, while computers evolve into glorified web browsers, allowing you to access everything that currently sits on your own computer hard drive. Waiting might be wise. Well At least till Service Pack 1 is out.

Posted by Sanjeev Mohan | Report as abusive

Why does M$ need to cross it’s fingers?
It’s pretty much king right now. Will we really have a choice once it ditches support for XP or Vista?
The fact is that M$ has a near monopoly. Only in
the mobile phone market does it have any real competition. M$ has it’s roots buried so deep, it can afford as many failures as it needs. There are plenty more numbers after 7.

Posted by humpty | Report as abusive

Microsoft releases new OS every 2 year and expects that all the customer are not-so-smart not to purchase their OS. Considering the stability period required for new OS, it is advisable to all not to purchase desktop/laptop with Windows 7 for now.

Earlier OS released by Microsoft was Windows Vista and it got horrible response from the users. Microsoft Vista was anyone not good and it requires and consumes too much memory. They would definately stop the support for Microsoft Vista in few years from now. Give this, it is better to stick with Windows XP for time being. Please note that it is advisable to replace your currently deployed Windows Vista (or Windows 7) to Windows XP.

In summary: If you are planning or deciding among Windows 7 vs Windows Vista vs Windows XP. I would suggest to avoid both the new operating systems for timebeing and stay with old computer with XP or Windows 2000 for few more months.

Posted by Sachin ‘Idle’ Gupta | Report as abusive

I’ve been using Windows Vista since mid-2008, running on 3 PCs. So far I haven’t had any problems what-so-ever. My personal experience with the OS indicates that Vista is more stable than XP. I used to get the occasional blue screen of death running XP and when I updated from SP1 to SP2 all hell broke loose. Recently I updated SP1 to SP2 on Vista and it hasn’t crashed so far nor behaved unusually. I’m looking forward to using Windows 7 but I think I’ll wait until it’s at least half a year old.

Posted by Stefán Örvar Sigmundsson | Report as abusive

I have used Windows 7 Beta for a few months and I would have to say that I like it. It is much faster and programs don’t lag even when you running multiple programs at once. There are some neat features introduced into Windows 7 and the overall use is much easier and simpler. Microsoft took Windows 7 seriously and they needed to do that. I have written a detailed experience about my use of Windows 7 and I hope you can find it useful. Please comment and let me know  /my_experience_with_windows_7_using_the _beta_version1.html

It is still too early to determine what kind of problems might rise from Windows 7, but overall I think it will be a great operating system.

Posted by ariel | Report as abusive

I have been using, and supporting Vista for a couple years now, and haven’t had any problems at all. I would hate to go back to XP after getting used to all the features of Vista.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Wise man say:

“The fool buys vanilla windows. The smart fool waits six moons and buys vanilla with patch. The smart man awaits the next windows, before buying the previous.”

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

I’ll stick with Linux…..Why pay an exorbitant amount of money for an OS that really isn’t worth it when I can do everything I want, including play my games, pretty much for free….

Posted by UltraWise man | Report as abusive

Microsoft has not put out a decent, stable operating system since DOS 6. Every version of Windows has been an unstable overachiever – it tries to do too much and ultimately just creates frustration instead of convenience. What is an even bigger joke is that, instead of streamlining the program, they continue to make it clunkier and more top heavy, and to further add to the frustration, they move all the buttons and features around and make the program even more complicated than it should be. They should rename the program Microsoft Frustration 7.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

If you use Windows XP and don’t want to fork out more money for new hardware to run Windows 7, then you might want to consider Linux instead.

The link above will take you to Ubuntu’s page. Ubuntu is a version of Linux that is graphically based. It works a lot like windows but there is a small learning curve. The good thing though, is that this OS is free of charge. Just download it and install. It also comes with several repositories of software apps that you can install easily and use for free.

You can squeeze more life out of your older PC by switching to Linux. It doesn’t usually have the high hardware requirements that MS does. Although the better your hardware the more bells and whistles you can add to your Linux box. Check it out.

If FREE means a lot to you like it does to me (cause I’m broke) then you might find Ubuntu a good alternative.

If you’re a bit geekier (as I am), you might want to check out Slackware.

Posted by Benny Acosta | Report as abusive