Windows 7 in review: The revenge of Windows Vista

Windows Vista lacked the right stuff to unseat Windows XP. Does Windows 7 really have what it takes?

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This latter point is perhaps best observed in how Windows 7 handles multicore systems. Our testing shows that the revamped Windows 7 kernel scales better across multiple CPUs than XP, thanks in large part to the extra tuning Microsoft did to improve thread-locking performance in multi-CPU environments. It's a tangible advantage, one that will become more relevant as CPU core counts continue to rise over the coming 24 to 36 months. If you're on the fence about Windows 7, consider the future proofing argument. It may be the push you need to help you finally kick the XP habit.

Bottom line: Windows XP was born into a world of single-CPU systems with memory capacities measured in the megabytes. Windows 7 arrives at a time when dual and even quad-core systems are the norm, and 2GB to 3GB of RAM is considered a good starting point. Simply put, Windows 7 is better positioned to leverage new hardware technologies and to support future application and workload growth over the long haul.

There's no going back

Windows 7 is faster than Windows Vista, but not by much -- and it's still slower than XP. It's less secure than Vista in its default configuration, but it's also light-years ahead of both of its older siblings when it comes to usability. Reliability is up, as is compatibility, but these trends have more to do with an industry that is finally catching up with the Vista security and driver models than with any new Windows 7 capability in particular.

In fact, outside of the reworked Taskbar (which is a killer feature), there's very little truly new about Windows 7. Rather, it's the culmination of an all-out, no-holds-barred, failure-is-not-an-option attempt by Microsoft to salvage the nearly five years it invested in designing and implementing the Windows Vista architecture. In this regard, Windows 7 is really more like Vista R2 -- Microsoft's attempt to take a second pass at the product and finally get it right.

If I were to score this comparison like a boxing match, I'd have to call it a draw, with the final nod going to Windows 7 if for no other reason than it drives the existing technology base forward, while opening the platform to new and more powerful hardware. IT shops that choose to adopt Windows 7 will likely not be disappointed. It's a solid-all-around product that matches up well with today's PC landscape. Windows 7 is still very much Vista at its core, and no amount of tweaking or UI paint will change that fact. But Microsoft finally did get it right.

Hats off to Windows XP -- it had a great run. But change is in the air, and it smells like Windows 7.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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