SAN JOSE, Calif. It's a sad day for the PC industry when one of its giants gets wide praise because it did not mess up in a big way. But that was the low hurdle Windows 7 stepped over Thursday.
Yes it boots faster, it is more responsive, it rarely crashes and it has support for touch screens. OEMs seem happy Microsoft is not putting a road block on their way to selling the systems we have come to depend on, for better or worse.
Imagine the response systems makers might have if Microsoft had actually enabled some cool new ideas. Call me a curmudgeon but I think Microsoft is resting on its monopolistic backside.
Rather than spending his time figuring out how to beat Google in Internet search, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ought to be thinking about how he can advance the computer industry upon which the bulk of his profits are made. I know it's not a sexy, high growth market anymore, but it is his mega-franchise to lose.
Plenty of contenders are knocking on the door from Nokia's Maemo to Google's Android and Chrome OS and Intel's Moblin, hoping to be the interface of tomorrow's mobile access devices. None are even close to unseating Windows, but wait a few turns of the crank and that could change.
I know doing anything new in Windows is hard. There's a big fat eco-system of hundreds if not thousands of different chip sets, systems, peripherals and applications that have to move forward in step with the OS.
One engineer I talked to said he thinks that could have been the problem with Windows Vista. In the last major rev of Windows, Microsoft changed the underlying compositing engine, moved from 32- to 64-bits and introduced a new security model. It may have been too much for the community to digest.
"Vista had a huge uphill fight to make things work with all the combinatorial explosions of different hardware and apps you have," said Dale Gulick, a senior PC chip engineer I have chatted with at several past WinHEC events. "With Win7, they had a cleaner focus" on just optimizing the OS and making it stable again, he said.
And it worked. "I've been using Win7 on my machine that I use all the time since before the beta, and it's solid as a rock," he said.
I think Microsoft owes it to the PC industry from which—along with Intel--it sucks the lion's share of profits to do better than it has with Windows 7. So let's start our wish list. What would you like to see in Win8?