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Windows 7 Finally Gets It Right

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Finally it looks like we have a Windows version that will just shut up and do the job. If only Microsoft could do the same, we might have got there quicker, says Peter Judge

The jury is in, and the verdict is that Microsoft has succeeded. With Windows 7, we finally have a Microsoft operating system which finally does what we want it to – namely, just shut up and work. 

The news is that Windows 7 is already selling like hot cakes, that resellers like PC World love it enough to back it with trade-ins on old kit, and box makers like Dell think it’s finally a relief from their long Vista agony.

For any jaded hack wanting Microsoft to fail, the only solace was the London launch. The product might be succeeding, but the launch really was rubbish.

In a cramped hotel, Microsoft execs burst blood vessels trying to think of bright new things to say, about a product which has no surprises. Microsoft UK managing director Ashley Highfield called it a  “pivotal turning point”, whatever that might be… and tried so hard to sound like he meant it.

Only a big hitter could rise to this task, and Microsoft fielded Julie Larson-Green, who basks in the job title of  “corporate vice president of the Windows experience”. It fell to her to explain that Windows 7 was good… because, shockingly, it will actually do what users have been asking for all along.

Windows 7 was “designed by you,” Larson-Green told us. And she reeled off big numbers: Microsoft invited eight million on the beta program – and 15 milion joined it. Larson-Green analysed a billion user sessions, to find what? Users want an operating system that works fast, that turns on quickly, is unobtrusive, and doesn’t eat up battery power.

As she spoke, a big question hovered in the room. How many user sessions did you say? And how did Microsoft fail so utterly to meet these obvious needs when it excreted Vista? 

The product demonstration came from “UK marketing leader” Leila Martine.  She had so little to say about Windows 7, she gave a gratuitous demo of a different product – Internet Explorer 8.

After working hard on this launch, we learned she is planning to surprise her husband with a weekend away! In Copenhagen! And IE8 makes it so easy to plan!

But the IE demo was an exact replay of one she gave, equally pointlessly, two weeks ago at the London launch of another product which isn’t Internet Explorer:  Windows Mobile 6.5. Martine’s husband, if he exists, must be getting fed up with Copenhagen.

With Windows 7, Microsoft wants to win over consumers. PCs are apparently outselling TVs right now, and Microsoft’s plan is to sell laptops into our second and third bedrooms, where they’ll operate as streaming media players, over the home network built into Windows 7.

That made the demo of a Sky video-on-demand player a really important part of the launch, so Microsoft tried hard to make it work. After three attempts, it failed utterly, leaving an embarassed Sky exec talking over a canned demo which, though taped, was more animated than poor Leila Martine.

Windows 7 is already succeeding, so what Microsoft did at the launch mattered not one jot. The only person with any real concern at this point was retailer DSGi (PC World), poised before the traditional midnight opening.

Microsoft, for its part, might just as well have handed its presentation over to chimpanzees.