Microsoft promises less complexity in Windows 7

T. Ramachandran

KOCHI: The launch of the final version of Windows 7 is around the corner, with Microsoft making available for public download the Release Candidate (RC) of the operating system (OS) earlier this month.

The OS is now “entering the final phases of development and is ready for partners to develop new applications, device drivers and services, and ready for IT pros to evaluate Windows 7 and examine how it will operate in their environment,” says Microsoft.

So, we now know more or less what is in the offing with Windows 7. And the question which many Windows users will ask is: what is really different with it, compared to the existing versions of the OS they are now using — probably either Windows XP or Vista?

“Less waiting, fewer clicks, and less complexity,” is the promise that Microsoft holds out for the latest version. “Hundreds of little improvements and a few big ones that add up to a whole lot less,” is what it had to say about the scale of the changes.

With Windows Vista the changes had gone deep - to the kernel level - compared to the previous version of the OS. And those changes came at a cost, admits Microsoft. “Many applications needed modification to function properly in a Windows Vista environment,” it said.

However, Windows 7 is built on the same architecture as Vista: so the kind of compatibility problems that could hinder OS migration are not likely to arise in this instance, it says.

Hardware requirements

Hardware requirements were an issue with Vista - many who decided to stick with Windows XP did so because they thought Vista was too resource-hogging. This time round, hardware will not be an issue: “Windows 7 was designed to perform well on the same hardware that runs Windows Vista well, while delivering additional performance and reliability improvements.” Microsoft says Windows 7 boots faster than Vista and has a smaller memory footprint compared to it.

Rajat Mehta, country manager at an IT multinational, says, from the perspective of a corporate user: “Installation is easy, smoother and faster than both XP and Vista. The desktop interface has been completely revamped with lot of new small features. The shut down and boot time are better than anything previous so that’s a welcome change.”

For those who are going to continue to use the Windows XP compatible programmes, Microsoft has come up with an ‘XP mode add-on,’ using which XP compatible software could be run on a PC installed with Windows 7. But then, is that a sustainable solution for those who are heavily dependent on old, XP-based applications? It indeed is, says Rajiv Popli, Director - Windows Client, Consumer and Online Business, Microsoft India, when The Hindu put this question to him.

“It utilises Windows Virtual PC which is the latest Microsoft virtualisation technology for Windows 7. It is the runtime engine for Windows XP Mode and provides a virtual Windows environment on Windows 7.”

With Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP mode, XP applications can be seen and accessed from a Windows 7 desktop. Windows XP Mode provides Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate customers the flexibility to run many older productivity applications in a virtual Windows XP environment on a Windows 7-based PC,” he explained.

Changes to the user interface are many: the taskbar sports bigger icons; and programmes can be ‘pinned’ to it. A ‘jump list’, when clicked, offers a view of recently used files and the option of pinning other files to it. Moving the mouse to the lower right corner of the desktop makes all the open Windows transparent and by going to the top of a window of choice and shaking it, all the other open windows will be minimised and sent to the taskbar.

Mr. Popli listed three most significant changes in Windows 7: refined navigation (including search), remote media streaming and Windows Touch. Remote media streaming enables secure, remote Internet access to home-based digital media libraries from another Windows 7 PC outside the home and Windows Touch makes it possible to control programmes using touch (on touch-screen enabled computers).

Some of the key connectivity features of Windows 7 have been engineered at the Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC), Hyderabad.

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