Windows 7 hype annoys me

Windows 7’s launch is impending, and the review sites are frothing with praise (specifically, ZDNet).  You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone in technology talking about how awesome Windows 7 is, how it totally rights Microsoft’s ship after Vista.  I’ve run the RC version of Windows 7, and I gotta say, I don’t see the big deal — at all.  The interface is nothing short of irritating.  It looks like what the gnome folks would come up with if you asked them to copy KDE.  It’s seriously that bad.  The knock-off version of the dock/taskbar?  Lame.  Could they waste more space around taskbar icons, by the way?  It probably wouldn’t be as annoying if it wasn’t so goddamn huge, but it is.  But, that’s cosmetic.  What about the nuts and bolts?

Here’s the deal:  Windows 7 is Windows Vista plus 3 years and a shittier interface.  That’s it.  The driver model:  the same.  The security model:  the same.  64-bit compatibility requirements for software vendors?  (You can’t ship a program with a Windows 7 compatibility logo claim unless it works under both versions):  Check, same as Vista.  Graphical whiz-bang enhancements?  Same.  UAC?  Same.  Windows 7 is better about not having so many different versions (Vista Home Basic/Home Premium/Business/Ultimate/Enterprise?  Really?), but that’s not something I care about that much.  (Windows 7 Professional will do the trick for me — I can log on to my work domain if I need, and it has Windows Media Center).  The notable differences seem to be that they added “XP compatibility mode” (running your Windows XP-compatible programs in an XP Virtual Machine — only available on some versions of Windows 7), Digital Cable Tuners (cablecard-capable tuners) will no longer require OEM certification (ie, they will work on homebrew computers), and allegedly managing networks is more intuitive than Vista’s god-awful Network and Sharing Center.  Oh, and they fuglified the desktop interface.

Ok, so these are nontrivial differences.   But, they aren’t the focus of the hype, previews, and reviews of Windows 7.  Instead, the coverage mostly talks about how much more “streamlined” Windows 7 is, and how it won’t have the pitfalls of Vista.  Why?  Because drivers and applications have caught up to the new API requirements of Windows Vista, and these are the same requirements for Windows 7.  Applications can no longer write willy-nilly into the registry, and drivers have to comply with a newer version of Microsoft’s driver API (ie, the revision introduced for Vista).  In other words, the benefits that reviewers believe are the primary benefits of Windows 7 are available today in Windows Vista, for no other reason than applications & drivers are now compatible.

I actually like Windows Vista.  I’ve seen the compatibility problems that people complain about, but I knew that those were the hallmarks of poorly written applications.  Also, most applications seemed to be updated within 6 months of Vista’s launch.  I use Vista Enterprise at work every day, and things generally work fine.  (At home, wifi mysteriously craps out.  There are other general Windows annoyances.  As far as I can tell, none of that is dealt with in Windows 7).

Microsoft got destroyed in the press and in (followup) online reviews because people were used to their poorly written applications from Windows Version X working in Windows Version X + 1.  Vista changed all of that, and for the better.  The security measures implemented in Vista were badly needed, and they did break quite a few drivers and applications.  Users seem to have all decided this was Microsoft’s fault.  In a way, it was, but not because “Vista sucks”.  It was Microsoft’s fault because they rolled out bad solutions beforehand and reaped the rewards when they had to fix it.  Yeah yeah, Vista performance was slightly worse than XP — it ran like crap on old hardware.  That’s all true.  But that’s always been true for Windows upgrades.  (Good luck installing Windows XP on Windows 98-class hardware).  Windows 7 will likely be successful because it isn’t a major deviation from the prior version of Windows that every major vendor has been writing to.  This is exactly why all the “best version of Windows ever!” hype regarding Windows 7 is so frustrating, but I suppose I should expect it to continue.

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