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Desired Windows 7 Features - Dependable Availability Tue 04 Nov 08

Window_h_wren_3I saw Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer speak at a Gartner Symposium a few weeks ago.  He was touting Vista and suggesting it has actually been a very successful product launch despite all of the perception to the contrary.  He also suggested that people not wait until next year's launch of the new Windows 7 operating system to switch from the XP operating system.  His reasoning was that Vista is a good system that can benefit you now and going from Vista to Windows 7 will be easy and trouble free.  Judging by the audience reaction I would say he still has a lot of convincing to do.

We are now starting to hear a little about Windows 7 and some of its features.  One of the things that is getting the most attention is the multi-touch capability that is very similar to the iPhone touch capability and Microsoft's own surface computing.  As you can see from this demo video it really is a cool feature and you'll apparently be able to do this on currently available PCs.

While this feature is cool and will certainly generate a lot of excitement I'm not sure it is enough for the corporate computing world to finally say "It's a great operating system, Microsoft has really gotten it right."  While this touch capability is probably then next big breakthrough in user interface I think there are a couple of things that the business world would rather see first.   The touch capabilities will take some time to become the dominant interface mechanism, applications will have to be developed and our way of thinking about how we interface will need to evolve.

The things I think the business world would like to see first are rather basic and rather than represent some new thinking are an outfall of current shortcomings.  These things are basic concepts that will only be complemented by new developments such as multi-touch.

So what are these things?

In simple terms I'll call them "dependable availability" as exemplified by:

  • "instant on" and
  • stability

By "instant on" I mean a quick boot up.  Truly instant may be too much to expect any time soon but some improvement would be greatly appreciated.  Typically we show up at work power on the PC go get a cup of coffee and hopefully the sign-on screen is up when we return.  Once we sign-on we sip our coffee and check email on our BlackBerrys while waiting for the PC.  While we will always take time to get a cup of coffee when we start our day there are many times when it would be nice to quickly fire up the PC to get some information.  How many meetings have you gone to where the start is delayed while the presenter has to start up their PC or how many sales calls have gotten to a slow start while the sales person starts there PC?

The good news in this is that there are reports (and here, here and here) that Microsoft is shooting for a boot-up of under 15 seconds.  Unfortunately it appears that this is only a "goal".  So although we may not get there it is a start and I'm encouraged that Microsoft is working on it.

The second feature is stability.  The core applications that most business users are Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, Word and Internet Explorer.  While they've done a lot to minimize the dreaded "blue screen of death or (BSOD)" it isn't gone entirely.  While we don't see the BSOD as frequently we still do see our core applications freezing or shutting down unexpectedly.

To become a truly useful tool the PC has to become dependably available.  "Instant" on and stability will go along way towards accomplishing this.  Sometimes it is more important that the basic feature work right even if it is boring compared to the excitement of the new bells and whistles.  The operating system isn't where we get value from on a PC it is the applications it supports and our ability to use them reliably when we need them without thinking they may crash.  For me when the operating system becomes as reliable as dial tone they've succeed.  They're making progress but still have a ways to go.

What would you like to see in Windows 7?

"window" photo by h. wren

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» Who's Watching Windows 7? from Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms
Microsoft has lots of company ahead of the launch. A lot of people, myself included, are eagerly awaiting Oct. 22, the day Microsoft will launch its new operating system, Windows 7. As the manufacturer, Microsoft is obviously the one most... [Read More]

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