What does it mean that we are surprised that Windows 7 is so good?

Over the past few months I've read article after article gushing with praise over how good Microsoft's Windows 7 is. To be honest, I've written several gushing pieces myself. But what does this torrent of praise for Windows 7 say about previous incarnations of the Windows OS?

Over the past few months I've read article after article gushing with praise over how good Microsoft's Windows 7 is. To be honest, I've written several gushing pieces myself. But what does this torrent of praise for Windows 7 say about previous incarnations of the Windows OS?

Now, let me get one thing straight here, I'm not trying to suggest that the praise directed at Windows 7 isn't justified in any way, because I think that it is. I've handled a number of pre and post beta 1 builds and I've been thoroughly impressed by how fast, stable and usable Microsoft has made the new OS. By the time the code got to the release candidate stage there really wasn't much more that we could have expected from Microsoft.

So, Windows 7 deserves the praise that it's getting ... but ...

There's an odd difference in how I view Windows compared to how I view other operating systems, such as Mac OS and Linux. When I'm faced with a new Windows release, I'm usually already looking ahead to the inevitable service pack that Microsoft will release to fix problems and refine the OS. However, when I handle a new Linux distro or Mac OS release I expect the OS to be finished. I certainly don't expect to have to wait a year for a service pack to come out in order to see performance or stability hit acceptable levels.Good performance and stability is just something you expect ... from any OS ... other than Windows.

Given all the hype surrounding Windows 7, and the constant drip feed of leaked builds via P2P, a lot of people have already managed to get their hands on Windows 7. However, it'll still be interesting to see how the new OS is received by "everyone else." The general public are much quicker to pass judgment and usually a lot harsher than IT pros and power users (who are happier to mess about with workarounds and tweaks). It's with the general release that Windows 7's hardware and software compatibility will be put to the ultimate test, and early reviews will make or break the OS.

Has Microsoft finally turned a corner? Can we now expect a workable OS right from the RTM stage without having to wait for SP1 to come out? Is this pressure coming internally from Microsoft or is the pressure coming from Apple and Linux?