...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.