Having my hands on the beta 1 of Windows 7 over the holidays has been an interesting experience because it's allowed me to show the OS to people and get feedback from a broad range of users as to how they feel about Microsoft's upcoming operating system.
First off, let me point out that these reactions aren't based on some sort of half-assed Mojave Experiment that I carried out. Feedback is based on people having a play with the OS and then being asked what they thought.
Overall, reactions from all OS camps (Windows users, Mac users and Linux users) was fairly positive. In a world where the majority of computer users are happy if they can access the web, check email, sort through a few photos and play games, this isn't all that surprising.
There was, of course, some negative feedback. A few points of concern included:
- The startup screens being too black, giving the impression that something had gone wrong.
- Taskbar too big/clunky/confusing/just too new.
- No classic Start Menu.
- Too many things moved compared to XP/Vista.
What I found interesting was the responses I got to the question of shifting to Windows 7 once it was out. I haven't yet found a Mac or Linux user who feels tempted back to Windows based on what they've seen in Windows 7. Those Mac and Linux users who still make use of Windows in a limited way (for gaming or running specific applications) see themselves sticking with XP or Vista as their secondary OS until they either can break ties with Windows completely or until forced to switch. Late adopters of Vista (those who migrated to the OS in the last year or so) feel that it's too early to start thinking about the upheaval of a new OS. Early adopters of Vista and some of those still using XP felt that the time was right to start thinking about a new OS. Some XP users are still very entrenched and have no plans to leave the aging OS.
When it came to thinking about upgrading, those who said they might had the usual reservations:
- Need a clear idea of the benefits compared to current OS
- Compatibility with existing hardware and software
- Overall learning curve
- General worries about the economy
My take here is that Windows 7 is going to be a tough sell for Microsoft. In a climate where people are concerned about spending money people are going to be extra reluctant to spend money on an OS that might end up costing them a ton of cash in software and hardware upgrades. Maintaining a high level of compatibility with Vista hardware and software (and encouraging vendors to fix issues quickly) is going to be a must. Microsoft also needs to make 100% clear the benefits that Windows 7 offers, and these have to be far more tangible than rejazzed interface and some restructuring of components. For me the increased performance that Windows 7 seems to offer is good enough reason to upgrade, but I don't think this will be such a slam-dunk when it comes to the average home user or typical business user.
Given that Vista only has a market share of about 21%, compared to XP's market share of about 65%, it's XP users that Microsoft needs to be targeting for upgrade. And that's a problem, because folks who avoided Vista because of compatibility issues and stayed with XP are going to be faced with similar issues when upgrading to Windows 7. This is one reason why Microsoft needs to release Windows 7 earlier rather than later in order to be able to capitalize on the mid-year "back to school" notebook buying frenzy - this market is less concerned about backward compatibility.