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Reader Feedback: Words of Warning on Windows 7

With the channel getting a serious look at Windows 7, we expect the positive buzz from the partner community about the forthcoming operating system to intensify. In fact, with this week's news that Microsoft will offer an upgrade from XP to Windows 7, we're thinking that Windows fans anxious to forget about Vista will hardly be able to contain themselves.

But let's not get carried away. Already there's talk that user access control -- that thorn in many Vista users' sides -- will be weakened in Windows 7. That might not seem like a bad thing, but it could have the potentially unfortunate consequence of making Windows 7 less secure than Vista.

And that's not all. Despite the mostly positive feedback we've had coming in from readers, a couple of you wrote to warn us that Windows 7 might not be the blockbuster that its buzz suggests it'll be -- or, at least, that Windows 7 might give users some of the same problems that came with Vista. Let's start with Tom:

"Every bit of the EXISTING hardware would not work in Vista -- except my mouse!  The vendors DID have hardware stuff for Vista -- but only NEW stuff. They left all the other perfectly fine hardware already bought, paid for and working fine with XP behind since they wanted people to throw it away and, in my case, spend a few thousand more to replace the perfectly good working hardware with new hardware that did the same exact functions and had the same technical abilities. The only difference was a new set of drivers so that this hardware could run on Vista. That is just plain bad economics.

"Windows 7 -- I face the same problem. All of that same four- to eight-year-old hardware works fine on XP but NONE will work on W7. I would have to scrap it all and buy new hardware just to get the drivers!

"Now, would manufacturers want to spend $50k-plus of their money JUST to write a SINGLE driver that would work with the old hardware? No, they would lose money and get no income doing that. Some companies like HP would spend millions for no new income at all. So, as a business, it is bad to spend money and get nothing back. But spend that $50k and sell a million new printers identical to the old but they come with a driver to work with Vista -- ah, payback and profit!

"Microsoft and the manufacturers forgot to ask the users if they are willing to spend $500 to $2000 in new EXTERNAL hardware just so they can work with that new OS. No."

Tom, we're getting Vista flashbacks here, we have to admit. But the real issue seems to be a lack of advancement on the hardware side. It might be -- might be -- worth $500 to $2,000 to upgrade hardware along with moving to Windows 7...if there were a reason to buy new hardware. Still, while this problem might not be Microsoft's fault, it could still end up being Microsoft's problem, again.

Ken, never a fan of Vista, writes to us regarding Windows 7...and he's not a fan of the new OS, either:

"Microsoft, in an act of blind stupidity, has taken away the classic start menu and forced this new menu approach, which if you come from an information management or records management background (and many people have) is not intuitive and does not allow us to customize the start bar in a way that suits how we wish to work. I really resent an OS forcing me to work someone else's way, and I also resent being forced to accept someone else's perception of change just for the sake of change when there is no obvious benefit other than cosmetic. There will be Geeks that refute this and say they are glad it's gone, but that effectively just whitewashes the rest of us who are desperately trying to minimize our costs (both hardware and software), training and re-training efforts and budgets and concentrate on our core business survival without being constantly distracted by changes Microsoft thinks we should all be forced to technically embrace.

"For every one of my clients attracted to Windows 7, the other 9 have expressed concerns about two major features that have gone. The classic start bar is a big one. The second is the total non-existence of a repair-restore option.

"This is just plain stupidity by Microsoft. They are publicly saying these two features will not be included, and so just on that fact alone I cannot see any sensible IT manager buying the product. If you have ever had to run an IT site -- and I have a 5,000-user site for Victoria Police here in Melbourne, Australia -- users just seem to be able to break PCs daily for the most bizarre reasons. In a corporate world, you have techniques to handle this, like spare PCs, use of SOEs and image files and data stored on servers centrally managed.

"However, when you come to servicing smaller (fewer than 10 users) businesses or agencies (here in Australia that comprises 50 percent or more of the workforce), these agencies have neither the time nor the resources to handle Windows 7 rollouts if there is not a certain familiar look and feel about the OS; they are freaked out by the new interface, are appalled that the classic start menu has gone (including their ability to do things the way they have become accustomed), and they do not want to pay for staff to have to learn new ways of doing old tasks. They are staggered there is no repair/restore option, which I often used to salvage one of their broken PCs with XP."

Ken, you bring up some very good points. A lot of partners and IT folks -- people doing beta testing and the like -- seem to like Windows 7. But will users warm to it after years of familiarity with XP? That's hard to say; certainly, Vista didn't win a lot of hearts and minds. We'll have to see. One thing's for sure, though: Microsoft really needs Windows 7 to succeed. Whether it does or not could come down to some of the issues mentioned here.

Thanks to Tom and Ken for their contributions. Anybody else who wants to chime in should, at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 02/05/2009 at 1:22 PM


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