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Windows 7 - The last version of Windows?

For those of you who don't follow the latest happenings at Microsoft, the next version of Windows, now code-named "Windows 7" is supposed to be released in early 2010.

Windows 7 is built on the Windows 2008 server kernel (a kernel is the core of the operating system). Some say that this kernel is introduced in Windows Vista SP1. The kernel is known as "MiniWin" because it's much smaller and less resource hungry. This supposedly makes Windows 7 faster. According to reports we've read, it makes Windows Vista SP1 (if indeed this kernel is introduced by SP1) 9% faster than Windows Vista. To most of us that would be negligible . Windows 7 is supposed to start up a lot faster and shut down a lot faster too. And, everything that works on Vista is supposed to work exactly the same as it does on Windows Vista. This is good, for sure, but will it make Windows 7 the whole new version of Windows it started off to be>

What started off as completely new departure from previous versions of Windows, is slowly turning into a glorified service pack for Windows Vista. Why won't we get the completely new version of Windows that Windows 7 was supposed to be? For the same reason that Microsoft always rushes products to market before they're really ready. Money. Plain and simple.

We're not criticizing Microsoft for wanting to make a profit. After all, Microsoft has an obligation to its employees and its shareholders to earn as much money as it can. Somewhere in between the shareholders and the employees of Microsoft there is the consumer. That would be you and me. Microsoft took a beating from its shareholders when it took five years to release Windows XP. Between the release of Windows 98 (we won't even count Windows ME) and Windows XP, Microsoft didn't release a major version of Windows - and took a hit in earnings.

Windows XP was a brilliant, entirely new version of Windows that brought something to Windows that had been missing in all the previous versions - stability. After the success of XP, Microsoft was in their customary "hurry up and make money" mode. Because Windows Vista was taking longer than Microsoft wanted, it was released before it was ready. Many of the features it was supposed to have were dropped (like a new, more secure and safer way of storing data) in order to rush Vista to market. The result was a resounding flop (regardless of the spin Microsoft puts on it) and an operating system that was not ready for prime time. Many drivers didn't work with Vista and many programs didn't work with Vista. And many people didn't rush to the store to buy Windows Vista either.

To be fair, since Vista was introduced, most of the software, hardware, and driver issues have been solved. And Microsoft has poured millions into advertising campaigns (like "Mojave") to convince people that Vista is really cool. But the consensus of most is that Windows Vista is not much better than Windows XP and there is no compelling reason for users to upgrade to Vista. Most people who are using Vista now are using Vista because it came pre-installed on their new computers - not because they rushed out to Best Buy or Walmart to buy it when it was introduced.

And, another mistake Microsoft made was the confusing pricing structure of Windows Vista - and all the different versions. These are four major versions of Vista: Windows Vista Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business, and Windows Vista Ultimate. With prices ranging from $99 for Windows Vista Basic Upgrade to $299 for Windows Vista Ultimate Upgrade and a marketing campaign that only confused people more, we began to wonder if this was the same Microsoft that used to make brilliant marketing decisions and reigned as the unrivaled leader of consumer computing. Microsoft should have known few would ever pay $99.00 for stripped-down version of Windows and while everyone would have liked to have Vista Ultimate, most people were not going to part with $299 for it. So most of those who actually did go out and buy Vista settled for Windows Vista Home Premium. It was a marketing nightmare that Microsoft should have foreseen, but didn't. You have to wonder what Microsoft was thinking - was it merely greed that drove them to introduce such a foolhardy marketing plan.

You would think, by now, that Microsoft would start giving consumers what they wanted instead of what Microsoft wants them to have. Apparently, though, Microsoft is going to keep on keeping on forcing things down consumers' throats. The way it looks right now, Windows 7 will be rushed to market before it's really ready. Many experts are already calling Windows 7 "Windows Vista SP3". Is it a whole new version of Windows? Or a glorified service pack?

And, when we learned what corners Microsoft might be cutting to get Windows 7 to market by early 2010, we had a hard time believing it. No email program? No advanced photo/media editing? Microsoft is a big believer in "cloud computing" - which basically takes applications off your computer and puts them on the Web, where they remain under the control of whomever owns them - in this case Microsoft. From what we've learned, Microsoft's not-so-popular "Live" will be an integral part of Windows 7.  It's easy to see why Microsoft wants to take your email program off your computer, or why they want to take the advanced photo and media capabilities introduced in Windows Vista off your computer. Microsoft doesn't make a dime when you send and receive email with Outlook Express or Windows Mail. As of now, Windows 7 will not have an email program as previous versions of Windows. You're going to be emailing in the cloud. Microsoft is going to try to force Windows 7 users to use Windows Live Mail. Why? Because Microsoft will make money with every email you send and every email you receive. How? Everywhere you look on Microsoft's Live web site there's advertising. Actually what they're doing is creating "adware" in the cloud. Send a mail - see ads. Receive an email - see ads. Got it?

Microsoft's also going to do away with the photo editing and slide show features it had introduced in Windows XP and improved upon in Windows Vista. If you're thinking ahead you've already guessed why. When you edit photos on your computer or make a slide show, Microsoft isn't making a dime. But, if you're editing and making slide shows "in the cloud" they can earn money from you using advertising.

At last report, and this could change of course, Microsoft wasn't adding features to Windows 7, it was taking features away - and they're going to promote cloud computing in big way. Maybe $100 or $200 for an upgrade version of Microsoft Windows 7 is just the beginning for Microsoft. Maybe Windows 7 will be just a passport to the Windows Live adware programs that Windows 7 users will be "encouraged" to use. Microsoft knows many Windows users simply use what Microsoft provides or tells them to use. Not everyone will automatically look for alternatives that they use on their own computers, free from the "cloud" and the whims of Microsoft and its advertisers.

We think Microsoft is making a horrible mistake by leaving features out of Windows 7 and push users to the "cloud". We think they're making a mistake leaving features out in order to rush Vista to market.

You would think that Microsoft would have paid attention to the fate of other corporations who once dominated their markets and now find themselves struggling to survive. Thirty years ago most people would have laughed if someone would have told them that Toyota and Honda would be pushing out General Motors as the number one auto manufacturer in the world and that both would surpass Ford and Chrysler. GM, Ford and Chrysler followed the same philosophy as Microsoft is following now - basically ignoring the competition, and worse, ignoring the consumer. Is Microsoft really that blind? Microsoft once again appears to be more concerned about its bottom line than it is about its customers. That philosophy might work for the short term but seldom works in the long term.

Google has released its first browser and its first cellphone software. We don't think it will be very long before Google releases its own PC operating system. And if it does, we'll bet you it does something that Microsoft hasn't done for years: Put the consumer first.

Will Windows 7 be the last version of Windows? Probably not. But as Apple continues to provide consumers a good alternative to Windows and if Google does introduce a PC operating system, Microsoft may well find itself where Ford and Chrysler find themselves now. If you think it can't happen, it has already begun.

Maybe Microsoft will change and become responsive to its users again. It may well be that "cloud computing" will be the way things are done in the future. If so, then the Web is going to have to become much more secure than it currently is or there will be data theft occurring on a scale we have never seen before. Taking features out of Windows and putting them on the Web is a bad idea. Not only does this take away choices, it takes away privacy and takes away users control of their applications. We're sure that cloud computing has a place - but so does desktop computing. It would be a terrible error in judgment if Microsoft continues with its "my way or the highway" approach. We think many, in the future, might just choose the highway.

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