BitDepth 700 - October 06

A curtain raiser on Microsoft's new update to its flagship operating system, Windows 7.
Microsoft plays a lucky 7

Microsoft's Windows 7 software will ship in three retail editions, ranging in price from US$220 to $120.

On October 22, Microsoft will officially launch its newest release of its operating system for PCs, Windows 7. In striving to make the new version of Windows the dominant OS in use company faces tough competition from... itself.
In August 2009, the operating system in use on more than two thirds of the world's computers was Windows XP, an eight-year-old software release that now seems to have come from another era.
Windows XP has none of the flashy visual effects so common in today's operating systems, no translucent windows, no slick animations, even the icons, so progressive in their day, seem more than a little dated.
But what XP has that Vista failed to deliver for Microsoft customers was extensive compatibility. 

It works with older software and ancient hardware. It benefited from almost a decade's worth of fixes and patches that brought it to entirely usable and more than reasonably secure status and, most compellingly, it had been cracked to hell and back by hackers keen on using it for free.
Add in the googly bowled by Asus when it introduced its netbook, a computer so stripped down and portable that initially it was available only with lightweight Linux software.
These tiny portable computers, introduced in 2007, gained steam fast and Microsoft found itself in the curious position of promoting Vista, which demanded modern computing iron, in the face of a groundswell surge in demand for computers which couldn't run it.

Hobbled by netbooks
Caught flatfooted and facing the prospect of being blindsided by Linux in a growing market segment, Microsoft capitulated on its plans to remove Windows XP from its product lineup and made it available, with some restrictions, to netbook users and eventually, through an even more restricted rollback programme, to new computer owners.
For users who used Vista on computers that fulfilled its real world requirements and had modern printers and scanners hooked up to their systems, the new operating system was a gorgeous experience. There were some irritating glitches, the most notable of which was an over eager security system, but third party device vendors quickly issued updates to their driver software and Vista users with the right equipment found much to like in this new version of Windows.

Upgraders, hoping to get some of the much heralded new features, had a much more spotty experience and Windows 7 is the first Microsoft operating system release since XP to return to the best principles of an OS upgrade, that a new version of the software should offer a better experience than the one it replaces.
To prove that point, Microsoft launched an unprecedented public beta of the new version of Windows in January 2009. The company, like most producers of widely used commercial software, had always done private beta testing, which allows interested users willing to give feedback an opportunity to "kick the tyres" of the new product. Allowing anyone access to the hefty disk image was a bold step, and it proved successful. The company extended the programme to a near finished version, the first release candidate, in May. 

This version has an extended use provision, allowing current users to use the free copy until June 01, 2010.
Clearly, Microsoft plans to release a version on October 22 that will be tempting even to users using a free version with eight months left on the clock.
The timing favours success for Windows 7. Vista's troubles paved the way for three years for software adjustments and revisions that fit neatly into the engine of new OS.
If Microsoft can deliver a version that runs on today's faster, more capable netbooks, there's a good chance that Microsoft users will be able to consign the woes associated with Vista to "remember when" documentaries.

Microsoft launches Windows 7
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