Opinion: Clouds darken outlook for Vista's successor

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Opinion: Clouds darken outlook for Vista's successor

Windows 7 looks like being an improvement on Vista, but economic and environmental concerns may mean few enterprises will rush to adopt it.

How many times have pundits predicted the end of Microsoft, only to see it sail on calmly, seemingly without a care in the world? But the software giant is not beyond criticism, and has recently shown signs of frailty.

It’s likely that a fair amount of harsh language has rattled the windows of Redmond in the past year, with most of it coming from fraught meetings about Vista and Yahoo.

Both sagas seem to be rumbling on, but at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles recently, Microsoft looked to draw a line under the Vista debacle. It unveiled the feature set of both its next desktop operating system (OS) and that of the enhanced Windows Server 2008 OS.

Readers may remember that the initial codename for the operating system after Vista was Blackcomb. However, after a brief dalliance with the name Vienna, Microsoft has opted for plain old Windows 7 ­ prompting much online debate about how many Windows there have been. For example, does Windows Me count or not?
With Windows 7, Microsoft aims to put its problems with Vista ­ of which there have been many ­ behind it. Some of the biggest criticisms of Vista included application compatibility, driver compatibility and performance. And let’s face it, if your flagship OS has those sort of problems, there is some serious work to be done.

But having been able to take a quick look at Windows 7, I can report that the performance looks much better. Gone are all those pop-up windows that have caused normally mild-mannered people to blaspheme.

On first appearance, the number of processes running under Windows 7 seems very low, certainly not the huge amount that Vista had running. Whether it will be possible to install it on the system I run at home ­ a 500MHz Intel Pentium III processor, with 384MB of system memory ­ is another question. It would be great if the Microsoft’s coders could boost the performance while keeping the memory footprint similar to Windows XP Professional.

The problem for Microsoft is that all the improvements in Windows 7 might be seen as making it just a “tweaked” Vista, with some of the more processor-sapping parts removed, and the pop-ups laid to rest. Is that enough to attract enterprise buyers who were badly burned by Vista?

Enterprise IT managers have grown accustomed to being targeted by vendors touting how green their systems are, and rightly so. The need to reduce emissions and conserve resources has never been greater, so imagine how much good will from customers Microsoft would get if it could say, “Here’s Windows 7 ­ you will not need to roll out new hardware for it.” And imagine what a win that would be for the planet ­ although I suspect PC vendors might choke if they found out that Microsoft’s new flagship OS didn’t require users to invest in new, more powerful kit.

It is about time the big hardware and software vendors really went green. Shouldn’t hardware vendors be aiming to extend desktop hardware life past the current three to five years?

Ironically, the fact that Vista is such a ropey operating system has done Mother Earth a favour. Most enterprises have stuck with their aging XP-based systems because they rightly judged there was little justification in moving to an over-complex OS that required a larger than average increase in hardware performance to run properly. Why should businesses have to throw away or recycle good hardware because an OS vendor’s code isn’t up to scratch?

With a big recession looming, PC buyers would welcome something that gave extra return on investment. Maybe that long-mooted Linux rollout that the open-source community has prayed for might still be a goer, running on a green ticket.

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