Windows 7 puts Vista into perspective: Only a 'failure' in retrospect

Windows 7 is out in a matter of days. Things are looking optimistic, but what if... just what if, it fails as badly as Vista seemed to? Perhaps if we look at Vista's "failings", we can predict its global reception.

For my 400th post on ZDNet, this is one mass response in reply to a barrage of emails I have had to suffer over the course of the last couple of weeks.

It seems as though I, and the just-over ten thousand students on my university campus, are not the only ones complaining even still about the abomination that their respective university IT department, hand in hand with the devil itself, Microsoft, have bestowed upon us: forced through product lifecycle periods to upgrade our campus to "the latest and greatest". Feel free to detect any element of sarcasm in the last sentence.

Only short two weeks ago, I had high hopes for the upgrade. I genuinely thought that a new lease of life could be drawn through the lungs of Microsoft'. I was not only wrong, but overly optimistic.

For those who have been reading since day one, I started with a touch of empathy towards the then-new operating system. Over time, and predominantly over the course of Windows 7's beta cycles, I became more attached to the lack of resource hogging, sluggishness and a general freshness which could only be rivalled by that of a gentle breeze on a summer's day in the countryside.

But I did start off with a very good point. Vista back in the day was perfectly fine. Only in comparison to a better benchmark of Windows 7 do we start slating the former operating system. Something that widely popular blogger, Long Zheng, mentioned earlier on this morning on Twitter was this:

To begin, I start with the question as mentioned in the title. From there I hypothesise the potential failure of Windows 7 and look into the few people we can blame for the potentially epic failure of Microsoft's next operating system.

Who do we blame for Vista, and Windows 7's potential failure? -->

The corporation

It is easy to blame the very creators of the software in the instances of things going wrong. From constant updates to flaws, problems and bugs which weren't ironed out during the development phase, to the blue screen of death which haunts the best of us to our very cores.

But let's face it, more often than not it has something to do with the hardware and something you have physically bought. Operating systems aren't perfect, and in all fairness there are more drivers out there for Windows than there are for Linux.

The testers

In an interesting twist over on Mary Jo Foley's blog, the big boss of Microsoft actually blames the testers. He claims that during the public beta of Vista, the vast majority of the reports back to the company were those of a positive one. But as the article continues, the early feedback on Windows 7 is also positive, so in the words of Ballmer himself, "the proof will be in the pudding".

Perhaps if Windows 8 was slimmed down further, and has bits ripped out with no less functionality or user experience elements, then we may consider Windows 7 a let down "in hindsight".

The computer manufacturers

For the most part, customers get their new computer and operating system together in one go from their retailer. But for reasons beyond me, such big names as Dell, Acer, HP - the list goes on, provides the user's first experience with a barrage of "crapware"; installed software that is neither asked to be installed nor has any actual relevance.

With so many new computers being bogged down with all this unnecessary junk, perhaps this is one of the reasons why their Vista experience was so poor? It might have had nothing to do with Vista, more like the people they bought their computer from.

The media

As a journalist, I hate journalists. Maybe it's one of the reasons I drink as much as I do, to try and drown the screams of the self-resentment. Technology journalists often take their anger out on the most menial things. And with many sites running off visitor statistics and numbers, it's usually easier to flame something to bring in the crowds than it is to say something nice about it.

But then again... Vista was a touchy subject which riled both sides of the fence.

The consumers

More often than not it is down to the end user - the little person facing the screen at the end of the day. When something goes wrong, they blame the computer, when in fact nine times out of ten it's because they've done something stupid to screw it up. The computer (or more accurately the "operating system") will only do what the user tells it to do.

That is, on the somewhat rare occasion it just randomly shuts down. Even so, sure, Vista used up quite a bit of memory and took a little time to get to used to, but we had never seen transparent windows before. It was a bold move, and now that Windows 7 is basically Vista just refined a whole load more, it will be interesting to see how the end user responds to it.

So...?

Quite honestly I don't think that Windows 7 can fail. We will never forget you, XP, but you have to leave us now. Vista is a blot on the landscape in a long timeline of mostly mixed-feeling, but many and even I would argue that this is a result of mostly external factors causing negative public opinion.

Well, if all does go to pot, we still have until 2012 until Microsoft kicks the stool from the gallows where Windows XP is standing under. We could all go back to the "good old days" where everything worked... just peachy.

What we should be considering is why we never seem to have a mass campaign criticising Apple and their Mac OS X software, or the Linux community for their open-source and free operating systems. Is Microsoft a justifiable scapegoat, or does that come with the marketshare monopoly?

Discuss. The comment goblin needs to feast.

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