Hopeful on Windows 7, but history is not on user's side

Windows 7 debuts day after tomorrow. What's a PC user to think? I am hopeful after using the pre-release version, but very cautious given Windows' history.
Written by John Dodge, Contributor

Day after tomorrow, Windows 7 goes public. I'm not getting too excited because previous versions have been frustrating and disappointing. And I, for one, am neither attending nor hosting a Windows 7 party.

But my lack of enthusiasm should not be mistaken for apathy. I truly hope Windows 7 is a better Windows.

As a journalist, I have a long association with Windows.  I covered it for years and after a short hiatus ramped up my coverage of Windows 7 earlier this spring. For most of the coverage, I was editor or news editor at PC Week (now eWeek) which celebrates its 25 birthday this year. Windows and PC Week grew up together and are the same age more or less.

In the past, a new version of Windows meant an infusion of advertising dollars from Microsoft and its vast software community. Those good times are no longer rolling in the much challenged publishing world.

I either covered Windows or edited its coverage in PC Week from Windows 1.0 in 1985 to XP which has to be well over 20 versions. Interestingly, one Microsoft "Windows Desktop Timeline" starts in 1990 and gives but scant mention to Windows 1.0-3x and Windows 9x (as in WIndows 95). Alas, Microsoft has a complete "Windows History" web page.  Did you know Microsoft actually introduced Windows in 1983 with no version number? I sorta remember that.

Those were days. Really buggy versions of Windows well into the 90s kept tech scribes like me very busy.

As with all previous versions of Windows, I am praying that WIndows 7 is a better Windows like the reviewers are saying. How shall I describe the essence of XP and previous versions of  Windows: Necessary evil? Mediocre? A kludge? Maddening? Minimally reliable? It works the it works most of the time? Inferior to the Mac?

The computing public wants a better Windows. Is Windows 7 that  Windows? The tech scribes seem to be saying yes, but just as with the Boeing 787, the public won't know until they fly in one.

I have been using the Windows 7 release candidate since May on a netbook. It's got some features that could make me more productive once I integrate them into my work life as a freelance writer and blogger. Here's what I am looking for: fewer updates that disrupt my workflow, better security, rock solid reliability as in no more crashes or looooong lockups, ease of managing files, multiple screens and Windows itself, fast browsing and much faster boot up and shut down.

I want basic things and never expected Windows to signifcantly change my world. I simply want some basic improvements.

Windows 7 has some of these things and I offered my first impression of Windows 7 at my personal blog, The Dodge Retort. And I wrote a follow up. But I confess that I went back to XP on another netbook because it got the job done faster (I skipped Vista which since Windows 7 emerged has been written off largely as a disaster).

Recently, I started using Windows 7 again because I know the freight train is coming. Lord knows, the U.S. economy could use a boost and in the past, Windows has ignited the tech market which in turn jump started a somnabulent economy.

Here's the deal. I have been in the market for a new laptop. Overstock.com has some great deals on refurbished laptops for about $300 that come with XP. I almost bought one Saturday night, but told myself to wait a few weeks to see if the factory "refurbs" switch over to Windows 7 (30 day warranties also scared me away).

I always did wanted the latest and I sincerely hope this Windows 7 is the greatest Windows yet. Frequent occurrences of great and Windows in the same sentence are long overdue.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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