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Windows 7

Windows 7 is the newest version of Microsoft Windows, and was released for testing on July 22, with a public release set for October 22.  What is unusual about this new OS is that it is coming out less than three years after the release of its predecessor, Windows Vista.  It took seven years to go from Windows XP to Windows Vista!  The quick rollout is mostly due to the fact that Vista was poorly received (and still not selling well) and that Windows 7 is a less dramatic upgrade to Vista than Vista was to XP, so Microsoft did not have to rewrite everything from scratch. 

Vista introduced a large number of new features while Windows 7 is intended to be a more focused, incremental upgrade, with the goal of being fully compatible with applications and hardware with which Vista is already compatible. Changes touted by Microsoft have focused on multi-touch support, a redesigned Windows Shell (look and feel) with a new taskbar, a home networking system called HomeGroup, and performance improvements.

OIT will test Windows 7 upon its final release in October for compatibility with our network and standard software.  In the past, Windows upgrades have created problems with our Novell Network environment, so prematurely adopting the new OS would be a mistake.  Having said that, we are encouraged by the positive reviews 7 is getting and look forward to working with it, as it will likely be the standard PC operating system of the near future.

Windows 7

What about Vista?

If you purchased a PC computer in the past year, you’ve seen Vista, the latest operating system from Microsoft. Vista is designed to replace the venerable Windows XP which has been kicking around for about 8 years now (that is a long time for an OS!). However, many corporations and colleges continue to deploy new computers running XP even now, two years after Vista’s official release. Adoption of Vista has been slower than Microsoft expected. Why?

While Vista does have new features and security improvements, it has also been the target of criticism and negative press. Complaints have mostly been about its high system requirements (making it slower than XP on similar hardware). It also has a number of new digital rights management technologies aimed at restricting the copying of protected media, and it requires authorization prompts for User Account Control (to make simple changes on Vista you often have to click an extra button that says “yes I really do want to make this change”). As a result of these and other issues, Windows Vista has seen adoption and satisfaction rates lower than Windows XP.

In addition, Vista has another challenger on the horizon which, strangely enough, is from Microsoft. Windows 7 will be the next operating system out of Redmond, and it was just released in Beta form for review. The initial responses are positive- much more positive that the initial reviews of Vista. Some companies are wondering if they can hold out with XP until Windows 7 becomes viable, skipping Vista altogether!

The bottom line is that at some point Microsoft will stop allowing companies to sell computers with XP installed. Also it is important to recognize that as computer hardware continues to get faster and more powerful, the performance hit that Vista delivers will be less noticeable. It’s possible that in the future people will just say that Vista was too early- computing power wasn’t quite up to the task of running it well.

The Office for Information Technology expects that we will be required to switch to Vista in 2009 and at this point we feel there is no compelling reason to delay. Because we are able to modify the Vista image to our liking before deployment, we expect very little disruption on campus. For most people, using Vista for everyday tasks will be the same as on the familiar XP.