A Rebuttal to Windows 7: Seven points of imperfection

In her recent article ‘Windows 7: Seven points of imperfection’ (posted on IT World Canada, and written for PC World US) Jacqueline Emigh  calls out seven deficiencies in Microsoft’s new client operating system. While I understand that columnists have to find a hook to please their editors, I am beginning to find it boring with how far some people are reaching.

The hook here of course is the very common theme of Se7en.  I’m sure that if pressed I could write an article outlining seventy-seven things I like about Windows, as easily as I could write an article on seven things I dislike about any version of any operating system on the market.  In this article, a rebuttal but certainly not an official one, simply based on my impressions because remember… Windows 7 was my idea!

#1: Windows doesn’t include certain earlier components.

A theme we will probably return to a few times herein, you simply can’t please everyone.  One of the biggest complaints against Windows Vista was its footprint… too big.  Ms. Emigh acknowledges that all of the components that she called out can be downloaded for free anyways, but if you do install Windows 7 and are used to them being there you may be mystified as to where to find them.

Most of the removed components – including the three mentioned in the article (Messenger, Mail, and Movie Maker) are now Windows Live components, and because of that there are two important benefits.  Firstly the same components can be leveraged by users running legacy operating systems, and secondly improvements can be made to the programs – more than simple patches but actual version changes – outside of the band of the OS.

#2: Windows 7 lacks support for older printers and other external devices

Microsoft does not write hardware drivers.  if you have a six year old Canon printer that does not have a Windows 7 driver then you should be complaining to Canon.  However in any case that I have come across if there was a Windows Vista driver it will work on Windows 7.  She also claims that the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit can be more of an issue, but again as long as your hardware provider has a 64-bit driver available you shouldn’t have a problem.

#3: Windows 7 forces you to learn a new UI

I drive a Camry.  Last week I rented an Impala, and the week before I rented a Prius.  I had to figure out the slightly different controls in each, so I spent three minutes feeling around, figuring out the lights, windshield washers, and radios of each; then I was fine.  From Windows Vista to Windows 7 that is precisely how different the UI is; for users who skipped Vista then it may be a little longer… 10 minutes max.  I say this because if this is among the biggest complaints that detractors have against Windows 7 then people who are not actively looking for faults should be very pleased!

#4: Windows 7 isn’t impervious to viruses

For ten years I have been telling people that I can build a building that is perfectly secure and impenetrable; all I need are four walls, a roof and a floor of 10-inch steel welded together and I am done. The problem is it is equally secure against those who need access as those who don’t.  WIndows 7 is extremely secure, but it is also extremely useable.

A few years ago there was discussion of including anti-virus software in the OS; that was quickly followed by discussions of decimating an eleven billion dollar per year industry.  However Microsoft has made available extremely good anti-malware solutions for both home users and corporations, in Microsoft Security Essentials and Forefront Client Security.  Either of these – or a healthy dose of common sense – are enough to protect your Windows 7 from harm.

It should be noted that no operating system ever made was impervious to malware; it was simply a matter of the right hacker taking the time to write it.

#5: Installation of Windows 7 can be a real bear, especially in upgrades from XP

Firstly I should mention that Microsoft announced up front that there would be no upgrades from Windows XP to Windows 7; so of course upgrading would be tough.  While I feel for the users who skipped Windows 7 only to find they are having problems upgrading I would like to remind them that Windows XP was released in October, 2001… and the fact that there is a way to perform the upgrade, even through workarounds, is a testament to the fact that Microsoft does care about all of its clients.

That being said, my experience with upgrading (which includes both my own and those of hundreds of clients, students, and readers) have not been that bad.  The ‘endless reboot cycles’ that she mentions have not materialized for me or for anyone I have spoken to.  As for some users being disappointed that they cannot upgrade from XP, there is a simple solution – upgrade your Windows XP system to Windows Vista, and then immediately upgrade your Windows Vista to Windows 7.

No matter whether you are wiping and starting fresh or trying any sort of upgrade it is a good point to mention you should perform your backup first.  If you want the cleanest experience, the Windows Easy Transfer tool that is available on the Windows 7 DVD will backup your entire profile to disk, which allows you to wipe your disk clean and start with a truly clean environment.

#6: Windows 7 pricing is both too high and too complex

<There are two issues here, and I will address them individually>

<1>

Quote: ‘With family and business budgets pinched right now, why is Microsoft charging anywhere from about $100 to $300 for an upgrade disk for Windows 7, depending on the version?’

<For the record: Windows 7 Ultimate (Full Package Product) retails for $219.99>

I will now change a couple of words in this sentence to demonstrate my point:

With family and business budgets pinched right now, why is Toyota charging anywhere from about $10,00 to $30,000 to upgrade to a 2010 Camry, depending on the version?

Microsoft is in the business of selling software.  Giving you new versions for free would hurt their business model, but it would also give them less incentive to make as good a product as they have.  In reply to Mac OS costing less, may I remind you that this is after you have spent thousands of dollars on their hardware plus the OS, which is based on open source.

If people are upset that Microsoft offers cost benefits to people who beta test their software I invite them to spend the year before a product is released testing and troubleshooting and yes, finding bugs; it is not a fun experience, especially since once you find them you have to fill out paperwork on the bugs so they can be documented, tracked, and resolved.

As for Microsoft not advertising that OEM (original equipment manufacturer) software costs less than FPP (full-package product) it is simple; the cost savings for the license are definitely there, but for the privilege you have to purchase new hardware.  If you know of anyone who went out last week and bought a brand new HP laptop but had them remove the OS license, then purchased the FPP license of Windows then that person wasted their money.  OEM software is less expensive than FPP because Microsoft offloads the support requirements to the OEM; if my HP laptop with a Windows OEM license has a problem then I have to call HP, who are glad to help me with it.  If I purchase FPP then I have to call Mi
crosoft.

<2>

I agree that there are a few different editions of Windows 7.  There were by the way six SKUs of Windows Vista, six of Windows XP.  Depending on what your needs are you should purchase the right one; for example a home user who wants to use Media Center but would never need to join a domain would purchase Windows Home Premium Edition

I would posit that Microsoft has actually simplified their editions in Windows 7.  In Windows Vista each edition had some features but not others; in Windows 7 the editions are cumulative – so Windows 7 Business will include all of the features of Windows Home Premium, and will not include any features that are excluded from Windows 7 Ultimate Edition.

If customers are too confused to decide what version they need, there are a number of simple questions that should help them decide:

1. Are you a home user or a business user?

<home: Home Basic or Home Premium>

<home 2>. Do you want the advanced graphics and media player?

<yes: Home Premium, no: Home Basic>

 <business 2>. Do you have (or would you like) a volume license agreement with Microsoft? Do you need security features such as BitLocker, or multiple language packs?

<yes: Enterprise, no: Business Edition>

3. Do you want to have every feature of every edition, bar none?

<Windows 7 Ultimate Edition>

So if you ask ‘why don’t they simplify it so that there is only one edition?’ the simple answer is they are not asking people to pay for the features they do not need.  My mother does not need to join a domain, run XP Mode, and protect her files using BitLocker to Go.  She needs a plain and simple OS, which is what she paid for.

#7: Customer support for Windows 7 is too scanty

Microsoft released their much anticipated new OS on October 22, 2009.  I am sure that in the days and weeks that followed their support calls were overloaded.  Fortunately for many Microsoft does have a plethora of forums, newsgroups, and white papers that will guide customers through most problems they might encounter.  Remember the complaint about beta testers getting rebates?  Many of us wrote a lot of those papers, and still more of us man the forums and newsgroups to help out.  Most companies not only don’t offer the same level of on-line support for their clients, but also do not have nearly the same ‘Influencer’ base that can offer that level of support on the day that a new product is released.  People were asking questions, and we were answering them.  Did every question get answered within an hour?  No.  Did most questions get answered in a reasonable delay?  I think so.

‘In early sales, Windows 7 has been beating Vista by a wide margin.  But does the company have enough customer support in place to handle the load?’

One of the problems that Ms. Emigh points to is that Microsoft does not have enough employees answering forum posts.  This may be true, but if you include all of the influencers, the community members who answered so many of those questions, then the number of people working on this was truly staggering.  Yes, it is true that there is no mechanism in the forums and newsgroups to make sure that questions did not fall through the cracks, but to say that the support was scanty is folly.

‘Still, when a user is facing a critical system error, just about nothing in the customer support realm beats the immediacy of a phone call.’

This is a true statement,… and there are premium support calls available through PSS to address issues that cannot wait; however immediacy does not always mean urgency, and more often than not it is worth the end user’s while to wait a few hours rather than paying for a support call.

I am the first to admit that Windows 7 is not perfect.  Okay, that may not be true, since Jacqueline Emigh beat me to it.  However if someone is going to write an article panning it I would suggest that they spend a little more time researching, rather than come up with such reaching real imperfections, and not issues that fall squarely on hardware manufacturers or upgrading an eight year old OS.  Even someone like myself, who is on most products quite loyal to Microsoft, and tend to air my grievances directly to the product team and not in public, can come up with seven legitimate problems if I looked hard enough… which is indeed what she seems to be doing.

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