You should at least know what Windows 7 has to offer and where it comes up short. You might be planning to do this on your own schedule and ignore the launch that's just 10 days away, but you will find that you pretty much have to do some of your preparation on Microsoft's schedule.
That's because the marketing push by Microsoft and its partners will be huge, possibly exceeding $1 billion in cost. Your users are going to know about Win 7, and a certain percentage is sure to start clamoring for it, or even taking matters into their own hands. What will you do if your schedule gets pressured by events?
With Win 7 betas available for months, it's been pretty easy for most people who are interested to assess the new operating system. After my own assessment, I see four major benefits that are compelling about Windows 7 and four big problems. Here's what to look forward to and what to watch out for.
Improved reliability and security -- You'd think that security and reliability would be table stakes by now, but Windows 7's stability and its security features should make it an attractive alternative for the millions of PCs that are still running Windows XP. There were a lot of reasons to stick with XP, which was a good operating system, but let's face facts: It came out eight years ago, when no one expected the amount of security and reliability issues that would plague PCs today.
Microsoft has learned a lot since the launch of XP, and it shows. Windows 7 is much more stable and secure than any previous version of Windows. Admittedly, though, it's not easy to justify the cost and migration headaches of a new operating system on the basis of features that should have been there already.
A better IE -- One of the biggest vulnerability points for Windows environments has been Internet Explorer. IE7 addressed a lot of older issues, but IE8 running on Win 7 takes security and overall browser usability to the next level. The problem is that many of IE's features can be had in Chrome, Safari or Firefox.
Aero Glass/Aero Peek and Aero Shake -- Computers on TV never run XP. They have slick-looking user interfaces unavailable in the real world. It's mostly eye candy, but it's really nicely done eye candy. Win 7 has some of that appeal. In fact, it's slick enough to possibly become the operating system of choice on Star Trek. Running Windows 7 with the all of the Aero UI elements enabled is a joy, and returning to XP after using it is a real letdown. Aero is how computers should look in the 21st century.
Media centricity -- Media is a first-class citizen in Win 7. Tight integration with Windows Media Player and the Windows Media Center makes it really easy to browse, navigate, tag and play all the content that's important to you. Music, pictures and video all work just the way you think they should. Even better, through "home group," you can access your media on any machine, wherever in the world it is.
Gratuitous UI changes -- I love the Win 7 UI, but I have a lot of experience invested in the old Windows ways of doing things, and some of the changes just seem gratuitous and make no sense to me. Also annoying are on-screen UI targets that you have to hit with your cursor but that are so tiny they make you think that Microsoft is hiring a lot of young workers who have great eyesight and/or high-resolution monitors. And using Touch and fingers to navigate is somewhat of an exercise in frustration.