Windows Vista was a public relations nightmare for Microsoft.
Microsoft announced the follow-up to Windows XP in July 2005, promising big things. The company said it would have better security. It reassured the enterprise that software and hardware currently running in conjunction with XP machines would work just fine. It told vendors that Vista would sell better than XP once consumers heard about it, so they wouldn't need to worry about its commercial viability. It even said Vista would be a far better operating system than any software it had ever released. It was a lofty goal. And given the fact Microsoft had done so well with XP, most were hard-pressed to believe Vista wouldn't follow suit.
But since its release in January 2007, Vista has had some trouble.
During the past two years, the operating system has caught more flak than any other OS on the market. Vendors were exercising "downgrade" rights so customers could have Windows XP instead of Windows Vista; consumers were buying Macs in droves so they didn't have to install and use Vista; and the enterprise kept a tight clench on their XP machines, deciding against switching to Microsoft's latest operating system. For Microsoft, it has been an extremely disappointing two years.
But all that can change when Windows 7 is released later this year. Microsoft has an opportunity to redeem itself with the new operating system. It can prove to consumers that the operating system they want, sporting fast boot times and cool design, is really coming from Microsoft. The company can show vendors that the new operating system will sell the way it should. And most importantly, Microsoft has an opportunity to prove to the enterprise that Windows 7 can be the place where they can maintain all their mission-critical data without worry of incompatibility or security issues.
And here is how the company will do it:
Windows 7 has some features that will definitely make it more appealing to consumers. Its design is improved slightly over Windows Vista, and it's a more intuitive experience. Aero Peek lets users "peek" behind open windows to see what's on the desktop. This might seem like a simple addition, but it adds much more usability to the software. Users won't need to minimize, then maximize windows to look at the desktop and get back to work.
Windows 7's improved taskbar should also be a big winner with consumers. Instead of forcing users to click through every open window, Windows 7 displays all instances of an open application in the taskbar. Once the user clicks on the window he or she wants, it's immediately brought to the front of the screen in full size. Finding the right window takes seconds. It's a really handy tool.