Friday, January 8, 2010

Review of Windows 7 Pro

Beyond Windows Vista; Exploring Microsoft's Next OS

Quite a lot, as it turns out, at least in the early going. According to Seth Rosenblatt, editor of CNET, "Windows 7 is more than just spin. The public testing process, involving one limited-availability beta and one release candidate... constitutes what some are calling the largest shareware trial period ever."

User-Friendly Interface

Sounds like Microsoft has been tapping into the all-important pubic opinion before thrusting another virgin product onto the shelves. From this refreshing due diligence apparently comes gratifying results, as Rosenblatt goes on to say that 7 is the "most user-friendly interface Microsoft has ever had."

With a new sophisticated and translucent style, 7's taskbar is now being compared by some to the glorified and iconic Mac OS X dock. This shiny new look is all thanks to Aero Peek, the feature that allows for the taskbar's polished luster as well as improved usability. But praise for the resurrected taskbar does not stop there as it also sports a handy mouse-over and preview feature as well as what it calls "jump lists," a file organization and display method similar to Stacks, a feature introduced in Mac OS version 10.5 (Leopard).

And no more searching for that pesky and often disappearing "Show Desktop" icon as it has now (finally) been permanently ingrained into the skin of the taskbar itself.

New Media Management Tools

No less impressive, changes to Windows Media Player in the words of Rosenblatt actually "makes [it ] useful again." Simplified set up, improved usability, and the technology to stream from computer to computer even out of network are some of the keynotes that rescue WMP from the dusty software storage chest.

Additionally, in recognition that managing peripherals was sometimes a complicated and tedious process, especially when searching for the elusive and often irksome "Safely Remove Hardware" icon, 7 has introduced Device Stage. Windows Device Stage covers all the hippest new gadgets like printers, phones, and portable media players into a single status window that boasts a clipped summary of important stats on each device. Support for older devices is also a great feature, but, in a bit of an odd oversight, Bluetooth is not supported without a driver download.

Windows XP Mode

Perhaps the most exciting and deeply laudable change from Vista to 7 is the available XP Mode. A mantra to backward compatibility, users the world over will love that Microsoft hasn't just discarded the old for the sake of diving head first into the new. Technology savvy folks everywhere have been clinging desperately to XP for years while the bloated and obtuse Vista bungles its way into extinction, so let heralds sing and trumpeters trumpet that programs designed for XP (and not upgraded to Vista or 7) will continue to be supported.

XP Mode is actually a virtual environment inside of Windows 7 and can be reportedly difficult to install. This is often due to the fact new software demands new hardware, at least somewhat new hardware. The trouble is that motherboards older than two years will not support the Hardware Virtualization Technology needed to power the virtual XP environment. Reportedly, even if the MB is still young and vivacious, the system BIOS may need a little tweaking before the software actually cooperates.

All that being said, according to reportedly tested hardware requirements, users can get away with running 7 alone on a Pentium 4 with 2 GB of RAM, but shouldn't expect to use an old graphics card.

Windows 7 Release Date

So there is still plenty of time to see if computers meet minimum standards before 7's official release date in late October, though even now the OS is available in the following flavors: "BETA," "Candidate", and "RTM." Pre-ordering is also a good option and will save about $100 dollars off the full price of $299.99 (according to Dell).

Indeed, the tech world is abound with buzz at Microsoft's new and wonderful offering, and critics, at least in the preliminary stages, are cautiously enthusiastic. Despite all of this, and with Vista looming as a not so distant lesson, many of us may still be feeling just a little bit tentative.

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