The Win8 Restore capability, which returns Windows to a factory-fresh condition, is overkill for Windows 7.8. But some variant on Refresh could ease a lot of anguish -- and reduce Microsoft support demands.
Windows 7.8 doesn't need the elaborate problem-detection logic built into Windows 8 that triggers automatic prompts to Refresh. But it does need something a lot simpler than the current Byzantine Recovery Environment and blind rollbacks to restore points.
Refresh can't be blindly ported to Windows 7.8 because it relies on the Windows Store to bring in clean versions of downloaded apps. I bet with a little bit of thought, Microsoft could come up with a way to return Windows to its original settings, leaving installed programs and data intact. That wouldn't solve all the problems, but it could put a simpler face on cleaning out Windows rot.
Little things: Copy status, Task Manager, and USB 3.0 support
Windows 8 has many little improvements that should've happened around the time we all switched to Windows 3.1. The copy status dialog box, which can now show multiple simultaneous copies (ooh! aah!) and their progress, certainly falls into that category. The Win8 Task Manager, which incorporates several Win7 reports and a much better UI, also belongs in Windows 7.8.
Support for new hardware, including USB 3.0, ought to be brought from Win8 to Win7.8 as well.
The rest of the story
Of course, Microsoft Security Essentials should come along with the Windows 7.8 package without requiring a separate installation, as should Internet Explorer 10.
Secure boot may be a must-have Windows 7.8 capability for some corporate admins, but a very large percentage of the Windows machines out there don't support the enabling UEFI technology. They can't be coerced to join the Secure Boot army.
Microsoft should leave the Win7 interface just the way it is. Spare me the ribbon on Windows (er, File) Explorer, don't touch ClearType, and let me choose whether I want Aero Glass or not, thank you very much. I would love to get back the "up one folder" button in Windows Explorer, but if I have to put up with the ribbon to get it, no thank you.
I also couldn't care less about easy access to the Windows Store, and I would scream bloody murder if some of the current Win7 programs, such as Windows Live Essentials, started begging me to buy stuff -- music, movies -- from Mother Microsoft.
The new power hibernating options in Win8 are cool, but I wouldn't pay extra for them, and I doubt most admins would either. Still, if it's no big deal, why not put them in Win7.8?
It wouldn't bother me if Windows 7.8 included a pre-installed version of SkyDrive or Skype. Microsoft might even add support for its Microsoft account login, which lets you sync settings and services across PCs using the same account -- just as it does with Windows 8.
With Windows 7.8, Microsoft could not only bask in the adulations of a billion customers, it could land some lucre in the coffers -- with a minimum of effort. I doubt that offering Win7.8 would cannibalize any Windows 8 sales; in fact, it'd probably lend new oomph to the moribund PC market. Microsoft might also keep a few customers happily tethered to Win7, rather than temped to try OS X, while we wait to see what's in store with Windows 9.
Sounds like a win-win-win to me.
This story, "Forget Windows 8: Give us Windows 7.8," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in Microsoft Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.