posted by Thom Holwerda on Sun 4th Jan 2009 21:47 UTC
IconReviewing the first beta of an important release like Windows 7 is never an easy job to do. A confouding factor is that many people have already made up their mind about Windows 7; not because they have tried it, but because it's a Microsoft product, and therefore it sucks. At OSNews we try to judge products by their own merits, not by the parent company that created it. Read on for a set of impressions regarding the Windows 7 beta.

Hardware

  • Intel Pentium 4 2.8Ghz with HyperThreading
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6200 128MB RAM
  • IDE 125GB HDD
  • CMI-8738 sound chip

Introduction

Two years ago, Microsoft released Windows Vista, as the successor to Windows XP, the much-maligned, but in the end quite popular operating system. Windows Vista wasn't a very pleasant operating system to use early on its lifetime. It was slow, full of bugs, and had various software and hardware compatibility issues. To make matters worse, Microsoft decided to offer 239472398 different versions, with ever such descriptive names. The cheaper versions had features removed on a seemingly arbitrary basis, and the full monty version was far too expensive for most people.

Under the landslide of problems, it was easy to miss the immense changes Microsoft had made to Windows' inner workings. Vista delivered a completely new network stack, a shiny new audio stack, a new graphics subsystem, system-wide search, a vast list of security features, and many, many other improvements. So many, in fact, that it became painfully obvious that Microsoft had bitten off more than it could chew.

However, as time went on, Microsoft worked hard to improve Vista. The Redmond software giant delivered performance improvements, bug fixes, and fixed all sorts of little niggles. In addition, they tweaked the hated (but very successful) User Account Control to show less prompts, which made the first few days after a new Vista installation a little less clickety-clickety. Many people concluded that Vista was an infrastructure release, on which Microsoft would build future versions of Windows. Vista was the cut-off point, the sour apple they had to bite through in order to modernise the Windows platform.

Details regarding Vista's successor soon emerged, but they were few and far in between. The new Windows chief, Sinofsky, kept a very tight lid on what information came out of Redmond regarding the next Windows release, having learned from the Vista debacle where the company promised more than it could deliver. No more promises, no more disappointments. The few details that did make it out made it clear that Microsoft wasn't planning yet another massive restructuring of Windows: Windows 7, as it would be called, would build on top of Vista, and offer various refinements all across the board.

Since then, the Engineering 7 weblog has kept us up to date on Windows 7's development, and offered various insights into why certain decisions were made during its development. The first public demonstrations of Windows 7 were met with fairly positive reviews all over the technology media, and the enthusiast crowd was eager to get their hands on the first Windows beta.

And now it's here.

Table of contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Setup; Applications
  3. Libraries & Explorer; Taskbar
  4. HomeGroup; Misc; Performance; Conclusion
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