Windows 7 finally makes the big time

Windows 7 finally makes the big time

Summary: Although the double whammy of a bad economy and an underwhelming Vista put Microsoft on the back foot, Windows 7 has proved itself ready to support the next wave of corporate IT upgrades


...a modern computing environment in other ways. Concepts that were barely on the radar at XP's launch — strong encryption, efficient desktop search, bulletproof internet connectivity and VPN capabilities — are now essentials for all IT workers.

Windows 7 also benefits from the support industry that grew up around Vista; that operating system's many problems spawned many tools for application transition, virtualisation and upgrade management. Of course, Microsoft itself has included some of these capabilities within Windows 7, as well as providing a number of free tools such as MDT 2010 to aid the transition.

The other big pusher is the slow climb out of recessionary times, which combines with the ageing nature of many corporate desktop and laptop fleets. This has been masked to some extent again by the move to in-browser IT, shifting attention to the server, but attention is moving back to performance.

Modern browsers with complex, media-heavy plug-ins and multiple tabs make heavy demands on CPU and memory, and all the major browser makers are concentrating on application acceleration through use of video processors and other hardware aspects. Although Windows 7 has learned the importance of making efficient use of hardware — in some cases, it works better than XP on older PCs — the online experience is no longer throttled by slow network connections and underspecified servers.

With developers finding that cloud-based services can scale superbly to match demand, the battle now is to deliver web applications that meet or exceed desktop-hosted software in terms of speed, ease of use and experience. Old hardware is falling behind, and companies are ready to invest.

Even where client software is indispensable, as often because it costs too much to redevelop and test alternatives, virtualisation and vendor tools make it attractive to move it across to new hardware — and a new operating system — without much of the pain that previously epitomised such a transition.

The stars have finally aligned in Microsoft's favour, and it once again has a success on its hands. One can argue deep into the night whether this is because the company has started to make the right decisions, or because the overall computing environment is favourable. The truth, as always, probably lies with a bit of both sides. But our experience shows that while Windows 7 may not be quite as heavenly as promised, it's certainly more divine than its predecessors. A slow start has morphed to accelerating acceptance, and the promise of a modern operating system at everyone's fngers is finally being kept.

Topics: Windows, Operating Systems

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • For us the expensive Vista SP called "Windows7" offers no advantages over WinXP. We'll start adopting Windows7 when the levy we pay to MS when buying new hardware provides Windows7.
  • Well, apart from he extra performance, increased reliability, better security, better interface, virtualised XP Mode and other new features, plus lower cost of ownership, what have the Romans ever done for us...
    Jack Schofield
  • The search function in Win 7 is very effective, however I still feel that XP was significantly more stable. Plus, 7 is a resource hog (RAM, anyone?). Let us not speak of Vista - I spent two months with it on my laptop and the memories still plague me. 7 does feel more secure though, and the aero functions are quite nice from a UI perspective.
    Jack Clark
  • @Jack Clark
    > I still feel that XP was significantly more stable
    > Plus, 7 is a resource hog (RAM, anyone?).

    Has your account been hacked?
    Jack Schofield
  • @JackSchofield. No. I may have been lucky. I have a reasonably old (5 yrs or so) Toshiba laptop running Win XP that has never given me any trouble and with periodic de-dusting is still usable. I have a modern laptop running Win 7 and my family run Win 7 / Vista (and am periodically called up for support) and there have been more problems and crashes than on my XP laptop. All subjective experience.
    Jack Clark
  • At Jack Clark. You really can't compare the Aero interface on Vista, and Vista7 with the 3D effects on Linux. And Linux requires much less RAM, and makes Aero look like doodling.
  • @anonymuos "Windows 7 is just like Vista."
    When Vista came out I got myself a respectably spec'd Toshiba Laptop running it (despite my misgivings) because
    a) Nobody knew how long it would be before the next and hopefully better Windows would come out
    b) As IT manager I needed a heads up on all the calls we might get because of Vista's problems if our company had to migrate on mass.

    I am now running Dell Vostro with W7 64bit and am loving it.
    My old Toshiba which ran like a pig with Vista is running like a dream with Ubuntu 10.10

    Better than XP - not sure - but if W7 hadn't been a significant improvement on Vista I was considering weathering the training and initial staff confusion by migrating to some flavour of Linux Desktop!
  • Jack Shofield

    WinXP has been almost 100% reliable.

    Improved performance? Only if you buy new hardware.
    Improved security? By MS standards maybe. Not by anyone elses. Can you run it without AV?
    Better interface? Personally I find it awful, non-intuative, hard to figure out how to do anything.
    Lower cost of ownership? We'd have to buy 200 new machines & dump 200 perfectly good ones!
  • @Jack Clark
    Well, I'm using a 5 year old desktop running XP and have only just replaced an older X31, so I know it's possible to run XP with close to 100% reliability. However, this doesn't mean I think this is typical, or that most people can do it.

    As for RAM, in real life, there's very little difference between XP SP3 and Windows 7. In fact, Windows 7 often performs better in the same RAM if you include multimedia. Even when it doesn't, the differences are marginal (you can measure them, but most users would never notice them).

    Are you a spambot or do you keep reposting the same stupid message manually? And do you get paid for it?
    Jack Schofield
  • @AndyPagin

    > WinXP has been almost 100% reliable.

    So it should be, but not all IT people are that good at their jobs ;-)

    > Improved performance? Only if you buy new hardware.

    Provably not true. However, I take it most of your PCs are more than three years old, have too little RAM to run XP SP3 properly and/or don't have usable GPUs...

    > Improved security? By MS standards maybe. Not by anyone elses. Can you run it without AV?

    Improved security over XP which, in this case, is the only point at issue. (Let's not quibble about the security performance of Adobe or Apple on Windows, though Microsoft writes more secure code than them.) Good luck when you stop getting security updates for XP....

    > Better interface? Personally I find it awful, non-intuative, hard to figure out how to do anything.

    Personally I find both Linux and Mac OS X awful, non-intuative (sic), hard to figure out how to do anything. I don't have those problems with Windows 7 because I've been using Windows for so long. Guess what: so have 95% of us.

    > Lower cost of ownership? We'd have to buy 200 new machines & dump 200 perfectly good ones!

    Yes, it's a beautiful day. I expect you're planning to retire before the ordure impacts any rapidly-rotating air-movind devices.... ;-)
    Jack Schofield
  • @Andy - we run Windows 7 on a Pentium 3 PC that's built into an LCD screen. It came with XP and we had to max out the RAM to make Media Center run, and it always ran sluggishly. We didn't dare put Vista on it, but we've been running Win 7 on it since beta and it's faster and far more reliable; I was ready to throw the machine away and build something from scratch and now I think this PC will last another few years without any need to upgrade it. Windows 7 even had drivers for the TV card that hadn't worked in two years... Obviously performance varies, but I've seen more than one system perform better with 7 than XP.
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe