Was Windows 7 worth saving XP for?

More than 210,000 Windows users petitioned Microsoft to save Windows XP. Has a worthwhile successor finally arrived?

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I have to acknowledge that some people like the new ribbon-based contextual UI; for them, Windows 7's refined version is a real plus.

Once you get past the UI -- both the eye candy and the contextual approach -- Windows 7 doesn't bring a lot to the table that would make me want to invest in it. Its touch capabilities are a disappointment, and the "XP mode" approach to ensuring backward compatibility is clunky -- you're essentially running XP in isolation, limiting operations such as copy and paste.

And there's the ongoing issue of too many versions with hard-to-understand differences that will bedvil home users, small businesses, and even enterprise IT (which will know to pick just one but still face the reality that employees working at home on their own PCs could have any of several versions. That needless variety is compounded by the fact that some OS features, such as Aero Peek, work only if you have specific graphics hardware and drivers installed -- so companies will likely find that even with a standard version of Windows 7, their users will have different capabilities. That should be fun for tech support ("Is your graphics processor DirectX 9-compatible? Do you have a WDDM driver installed?" "Huh?").

Some of Windows 7's innovations are rip-offs of the Mac OS, which I already use. If you're not on a Mac, they'll hold more appeal for you. Two examples are "library" views (the equivalent of the Mac's "smart folders") and home groups -- though I find this allegedly friendly file-sharing technology harder to set up than the Mac's sharing.

"Save XP": A victory where the champagne is flat
At the end of the day, Windows 7 is the OS Microsoft should have shipped instead of Vista, and we should all be excited today by a Windows 7 that is really compelling and innovative. But what we have is Vista R2.

Saving XP was the right thing to do, but I do wish that Microsoft had done a lot more than clean up Vista in the meantime. Windows 7 is a relief, but nothing to celebrate. I wanted champagne, but I got Alka-Seltzer.

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This story, "Was Windows 7 worth saving XP for?" was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in Windows 7, Windows in general, and Mac OS X at InfoWorld.com.

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