Listen closely. Can you can hear it? It's the kapocketa-pocketa-pocketa of the Microsoft hype machine, as the Windows 7 launch bears down upon us.
Though it's never worked quite as well as it did back in the halcyon days preceding Windows 95, Microsoft still drags the thing out of the basement every few years, fills the tank with diesel, cranks it up, and hopes it doesn't spew oil on the carpet or overwhelm us with fumes.
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As always, the hype starts with Steve Ballmer. In a letter sent to customers and developers (but that mysteriously made its way to several reporters), Ballmer boasts...
Windows 7 simplifies tasks and lets people get more done in less time with fewer clicks. Ready to deploy now, it enhances corporate data protection and security, and increases control to improve compliance and reduce risk.... making it easier to reduce costs, improve performance, and enable end users to work anywhere. These and other enhancements are the result of close collaboration with millions of customers and thousands of IT professionals... Thanks in large part to their help, Windows 7 is the best PC operating system we have ever built.
Of course, this time Ballmer really means it. He also really meant it when he said the same things about Vista, XP, NT, Windows 98, Win 95, and every other Windows OS going back to DOS 2.1, with the possible exception of Windows ME. More disturbing is that he truly believes it.
Meanwhile, the braniacs in the Microsoft marketing department have come up with a truly wacky idea. They're encouraging Microsoft fanboys and girls to throw Windows 7 launch parties on the big day -- kind of like Tupperware parties, only with more burping and less sealing. There's even a Web site and a vague-yet-perky video describing what's supposed to happen at these fetes.
Of course, Microsoft is also sweetening the pot by offering a shot at a $750 Windows 7 PC to some lucky party thrower. Hey, it wouldn't be a Microsoft promotion if it didn't include a bribe.
This is apparently from the same crack team that brought us the "show us your wow" Web site back when Vista was the Apple -- er, the gleam in Ballmer's bloodshot eyes. The site encouraged fans to upload photos and videos so tjat Microsoft could showcase Vista's whizzy Flip 3D navigation, but it had its own moments of unintentional hilarity -- most memorably the video of a skinny topless transvestite shimmying to Shakira to show his/her OS love. Sadly, that site has been consigned to the dustbin of Web history. It was so awful they even purged it from The Wayback Machine.
Also from the Department of Deja Vu Department: It appears Microsoft will indeed include a logo program for Windows 7, slapping stickers on machines that have been officially certified "Compatible With Windows 7." Lack of hardware compatibility was one of the big black eyes for Vista; unfortunately, so was the Windows Vista Capable labeling program. It seems only devices that work with all versions of Win 7, including the 64-bit version, will carry the Win 7 sticker. Which means that 32-bit netbooks won't.
So if it doesn't carry a sticker, will it still run Windows 7? The answer: a) probably, b) maybe, c) we don't know, d) all of the above. Nice. Expect more user confusion to ensue. Maybe a class-action suit and more deliciously juicy internal e-mails will come out of it too. (A man can dream, can't he?)
Still, Microsoft seems to have learned a few things from the Vista debacle. Early looks at Windows 7 seem mostly positive, noting the relative simplicity of the OS compared to the mess that was Vista. Reviewing the shipping software for PC World, Technologizer Harry McCracken writes:
Windows 7 is hardly flawless. Some features feel unfinished; others won't realize their potential without heavy lifting by third parties. And some long-standing annoyances remain intact. But overall, the final shipping version I test-drove appears to be the worthy successor to Windows XP that Vista never was.
Maybe Microsoft got it right this time -- or right enough. We'll find out some time on or around October 22, when Win 7 officially ships.
Me, I'm not upgrading, not right away at least. In my experience, the machines that have the most problems with Windows are the ones with new versions grafted on to older hardware. I may take it for a spin on some new machines, though. As long as I don't have to rely on them to get any work done.
Are you making the move to Windows 7? If so, are you planning to throw a party and invite all your dweeby friends? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.