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October 23, 2009

Windows 7

Well, the much advertised public release date of Windows 7 has come and gone. The equivalent of "War and Peace" has been written on how wonderful it is and on how Microsoft "got it right" this time. Maybe they have and maybe they haven't. Here at RuggedPCReview.com, we've used Windows 7 on some of the rugged hardware we've had here for testing and evaluation recently and, frankly, it looked so much like Vista that we barely noticed anything was different.

At this point, I have mixed feelings. Almost all the rugged hardware that comes in here still runs Windows XP or the Tablet PC Edition or, increasingly, one of the embedded versions of Windows. It was actually interesting to see all those "XYZ recommends Vista" tag lines on manufacturers' websites and promotional materials when most of their machines really still ran XP.

So now Windows 7 is here, and Microsoft has been quite successful in creating the buzz that it's new and leaner and faster than Vista. Some of the industry pundits were practically falling all over themselves heaping praise upon Microsoft, so much so that it was almost embarrassing. Steve Wildstrom at Business Week, whose straightforward opinions I greatly respect, was quite critical over the unacceptable upgrade from XP to Windows 7 (reinstall every app from scratch) and how long the upgrade takes, but he also then said Windows 7 was "something truly better."

I think whether or not Windows 7 is indeed something truly better will eventually determine the fate of Windows 7. It looks so much like Vista that had it not been for Vista's questionable reputation, Microsoft probably would have simply called the "new" OS Vista Service Pack 3. As is, that wasn't an option. From a PR standpoint, Vista was so damaged that almost anything would look better. So creating something that is not as bad as Vista is like General Motors improving the Corvair back in the 1960s. It really was a pretty good car in the end, but Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed" had damaged the Corvair beyond repair. So from that point of view, having Windows 7 look like Vista and simply saying it's better than Vista may not have been a great idea.

But let's assume that Windows 7 is better than Vista and that Microsoft really has learned and listened. Then you still have the problem that a good number of users will have to upgrade from XP to Windows 7, which so happens to be perhaps Windows 7's most frustrating point. That particularly applies to corporate users where many shops never migrated to Vista at all. It's conceivable that Windows 7, Vista-like though it is, may indeed cause a lot of companies to finally make the migration from XP, but that may mostly be because by now XP is two generations out of date and Microsoft very actively discourages the use of XP.

Only time will tell. It seems almost unthinkable that the world will wholesale reject another Microsoft OS the way Vista as rejected. I mean, a company cannot continue to have 90+% of the market when its new products are rejected. This is why Windows 7 is hugely important to Microsoft. If it's another failure, and the coming weeks and months will tell whether the media enthusiasm will give way to user frustration or not, then, Redmond, we have a problem. If the Vista flop is forgiven like Windows ME was eventually forgiven, Ballmer & Co will likely breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Does it all matter in the rugged space? Not as much as it matters in the consumer and commercial markets. The major players will make sure their product lines are able to run Windows 7 well. And an increasing number may look to Windows Embedded, now that it's called Windows Embedded Standard and "XP" has been banished from the name, though for now it's still really XP (Windows Embedded Standard 2011 will be Windows 7-based).

As expected, Apple is having a field day with the Windows 7 release, running one funny "I'm a PC and I'm a Mac" commercial after another. And just as many would love to have iPhone ease-of-use and functionality on their industrial handhelds, many wish the Mac OS were available on rugged machines. But it's not, and so we truly hope that Windows 7 will give the world a productive and reliable computing platform to work on.

Posted by conradb212 at October 23, 2009 07:37 PM

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