Windows 7: What's in a name?

Exploring the significance of the number 7 in Microsoft's latest and greatest Windows desktop OS

It's official: The next version of Windows will be called (drumroll, please) ... "Windows 7!"

In a page straight out of the Apple playbook, Microsoft has decided to capitalize on the name recognition surrounding the code name for its super-duper-secret Vista follow-on by simply sticking with the prerelease nomenclature and launching the product as Microsoft Windows 7.

Of course, when it comes to Microsoft product names, there's always more to the story. In fact, I did a little digging over the weekend and came up with the following list of ridiculous, yet plausible, explanations for the Redmond behemoth's fascination with the number 7 and its significance in relation to the next-generation Windows desktop OS:

  • It'll take 7 minutes to boot. At least that's my guess based on nearly two years of experience running the Vista RTM bits. It was just a couple of weeks ago that I was lamenting how long it took to reboot my notebook while sipping my espresso in the Emirates Business Class lounge at Dubai International. The system just sat there, all but unusable, as the hard disk ground away at some "important" post-boot/login background task. And since Windows 7 is really just Vista warmed over, I'm expecting more of the same in the boot-time performance department.

    Perhaps if Microsoft would at least reduce the number of mandatory reboots –- for example, by making the network stack robust enough to survive a day's worth of wireless hotspot roaming without going "deaf" (requiring a warm boot to recover) –- I'll call it a wash. But, frankly, I'm not expecting much here.
  • It'll garner roughly 7 percent of the enterprise desktop market before Microsoft starts talking about the wonders of Windows 8. Let's face it, Windows has lost nearly all of its momentum thanks to the whole Vista debacle. To think that Windows 7, which is essentially Vista R2 with an updated GUI and a slightly reduced disk footprint, will fare any better is simply naive. I'm predicting, right here and right now, that the post-PDC verdict will be generally negative and that the Save XP rhetoric will soon be resurrected. You read it here first.
  • It'll take a minimum of 7 mouse clicks to enable a network adapter and connect to a new network. Fact is, this would constitute an improvement. I just tried this in Vista and, between navigating through the various Network and Sharing Center UI fluff and wrestling with UAC prompts, I must have spent a good dozen clicks connecting to my local wireless hub. Few areas of the Vista UI are more frustrating to a veteran Windows user than network configuration. Microsoft simply has to do a better job of exposing these common functions or risk a class-action suit from all of us carpal tunnel sufferers (ouch)!
  • It'll run best in 7GB of RAM, though I'll round it up to 8GB for evenness. Yes, we've heard all about how Vista runs fine in 2GB. And yes, I know, all those 4GB notebooks at Costco –- the ones with Vista x64 preloaded –- are just an aberration. But seriously, no self-respecting Vista (or Windows Workstation 2008) power user is still running with less than 8GB, especially not with RAM prices so low.

    So let's be honest and acknowledge that the new post-Windows Vista sweet spot for memory is 8GB, with the exception of the exclusive-super-ultra-special-basic-home edition that Microsoft has formulated specifically for all you fools who were duped into buying one of those crippled Intel 945-series Centrino notebooks -- you know, the ones that can never support more than 3.25GB of RAM, even with a 64-bit OS? Like my beloved XPS 1710? Am I bitter? Do I sound bitter? Well, maybe a little.

I could, of course, go on and on with such a list (for example: How many days will it be before the warez crowd cracks the latest WGA process? 7 days!). But the truth is I'm glad they stuck with the numerical naming convention. It's sort of a shout-out to those glorious NT builds of the past –- you know, back when the folks up in Redmond actually knew how to code for the enterprise desktop.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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