Does Windows 7 Make a Difference?

January 18th, 2010

As some of you have heard, the PC industry appears to have recovered from a severe case of the doldrums, reflected in declining sales for part of 2009 mostly as the result of the world economic crisis. There was, however, one shining light in all this grief, aside from Apple’s record profits of course, and that’s the netbook.

So if you felt you just had to squander $300 or $400 on a tiny note-book computer, you were in good company. Indeed, it may well be that it was this product segment rather than the arrival of Windows 7 that impacted the PC industry the most. But is that good news for Microsoft?

Well, I suppose it is if many of those new computers were shipped with Windows, particularly Windows 7. It wasn’t so good if they were supplied with Windows XP, or to add insult to injury, Linux. Later this year, Microsoft’s worst nightmare will be the arrival of Google’s Chrome OS.

You do see all those awful ads on TV for Windows 7, where someone touts a lame feature, often not unique to Windows, such as wireless networking, and pronounces it so special that he believes he invented it. Now I don’t pretend to know whether the public is foolish enough to buy into this foolishness, or even understands that these spots are designed to promote a new PC operating system rather than a computer with an unknown brand name. Yes, the focus of the message is really that vague.

But that has always represented Microsoft’s dilemma, which is to somehow separate the generic PC from its own operating system, or even that it really makes a difference to the average customer, unless they choose to go Mac instead.

Now I’m quite certain Microsoft will use the improved sales figures as vindication for their operating system strategy. Even though they make very little money from OEM licenses for the very cheapest PCs sporting basic versions of Windows, a sale is a sale and no sense complaining about it.

On the other hand, I wonder if Microsoft has begun to understand their onward march to irrelevance. You see, very little of what they say these days is really taken seriously. Oh, Windows 7 fixes all the problems with Vista? Well and good, but what about XP users who want to upgrade and face a draconian installation process? What about Apple’s forthcoming tablet computer?

The Zune HD? What’s that? Did anyone really buy those things during the holiday season? Does anyone remember what a Zune HD is or was? Does Microsoft even make those things anymore? Do they somehow hope to morph the product line into a full-fledged smartphone to complete with the iPhone?

Who is competing with the iPhone anyway? Oh yes, Nokia by dint of ongoing legal actions and, of course, Google. But wait a minute, isn’t Google actually taking market away from Microsoft, by signing up the very same companies who used to build Windows Mobile handsets? Is Google’s target Apple, or Microsoft? Or do they just want to continue to sell ads, without regard to which gadgets those ads appear on?

Another question: Is Apple’s recent acquisition of a mobile ad service an indication that Google may soon find itself exiled from the iPhone? There is a recent rumor, in fact, that Apple plans to switch its iPhone and perhaps Mac search capabilities to Microsoft’s Bing. There’s even a Bing app for the iPhone if you want to see whether the changeover is worth the bother. Or maybe Apple will just build its own search engine, establish its own ad revenue stream, and leave it to Google and Microsoft to fight their battles on someone else’s turf.

Now that Windows 7 has been out for a while, is there any special feature, other than the faux Dock, that’s even worth shouting about? Is the enterprise ready to switch wholesale, or will they just wait until they’re ready to buy batches of new PCs for the office? More than likely, Microsoft’s next quarterly revenue will begin to tell the tale. If sales and profits come across as flat or declining, and perhaps more employees are set to receive pink slips, it’ll be just another round of evidence of the company’s long-term decline.

Certainly, giving European customers a browser ballot box has to add insult to injury. People are deserting Internet Explorer in droves and former Windows advocates have joined the crowed. The onward migration to Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera continues unabated, the pace is only going to accelerate.

Maybe Apple’s sales increases won’t prove an avalanche of Windows desertions just yet, but when the netbook craze dies off, as it inevitably will, how many customers will just continue to buy new PC boxes and be satisfied with more of the same? You have to wonder if Microsoft is even aware that time is no longer on their side.

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17 Responses to “Does Windows 7 Make a Difference?”

  1. Andrew says:

    There is one feature of Windows 7 that I would like to see Apple copy, and that is the ability to drag a window to one side of the screen and have it instantly take half of the display. Another is is the ability to scroll an inactive window by placing the mouse cursor over it (without actually selecting) and then working the scroll wheel on your mouse or the two-finger gesture on the touchpad.

    As an attorney I frequently take an old document and apply it to a new client or case, and the ability to have both new and old documents side-by-side, and freely scroll both of them without selecting them is a nice productivity boost. In Windows 7 the two windows instantly move to take half of the screen, while with OS X I have to manually resize them.

    Oh well, can’t have it all.

  2. Andrew says:

    Expose won’t allow side-by-side editing, copy/paste and scrolling like the half-screen display mode in Windows 7. Of course that is just one specific feature. Others play on the Mac side, like reliable and fast sleep and wake, which no version of Windows has ever gotten right.

    Honestly, there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides of the platform divide, and its up to each user or organization to pick the one that fits their uses best.

    I pick OS X for most work and really only go into Windows for WordPerfect, which some courts still insist on as their required format. My other use for Windows is gaming, as their just aren’t enough of the best titles for the Mac. Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Crysis, etc, all of which play very well in Boot Camp running Windows 7 on a MacBook Pro.

  3. tz says:

    ” . . .scroll an inactive window by placing the mouse cursor over it (without actually selecting) and then working the scroll wheel on your mouse or the two-finger gesture on the touchpad.” ? ? ? ?
    Doing that right now on my mac laptop.
    I have been doing that since at least OSX 10.5. (It seems 10.4 did that too)

    • Andrew says:


      How? I have two Word documents open, and when the one on the left is selected, the one on the right does not respond to scroll or anything else.

  4. Daniel Decker says:

    You answered your own question – Word. If MS doesn’t use the proper window drawing API, that’s Apple’s fault? Any proper Cocoa app allows non-focused scrolling, non-focused window closing/docking and even movement/resizing with a modifier key. File a bug with Microsoft.

    • Andrew says:

      @Daniel Decker,

      Word is what 90% of courts use, and therefore Word is what I use. Actually according to the website Word 2008 should work, so I’ll try this utility out. I usually am loathe to install interface utilities and try to keep my systems, both Apple and Microsoft, as pure and lean as possible. This, however, would give me my favorite Windows 7 UI feature for OS X, and would be worthwhile.

  5. Scott says:

    >>File a bug with Microsoft>>

    To the end user, that is irrelevant. Placing blame doesn’t help one to get the work done.

    In this case, the task works under Windows 7 – and doesn’t work under the Mac OS. Period.

    • Chris says:


      The guy you are replying to just said that the fault lies with the way Microsoft improperly uses the window drawing API. If Apple gives developers access to a tool and they don’t use it, that’s the developers fault, not Apples. If the end user is going to blame Apple for something Microsoft does then said end user is an idiot.

      • Andrew says:

        @Chris, Nobody is blaming anyone for anything, just stating that a feature is available on one system and not on the other. The fact is, the feature is built-into Windows 7, works on EVERY application in Windows 7, and is not built-into OS X and depends on a 3rd party utility that has trouble with some applications.

        The answer isn’t to point blame, its to use what you need to use to have the features you need to have. The utility works (so far) with Word 2008, which is the version I have, and I will continue to evaluate it. I still wish it was built into the OS itself and thus not at risk of being broken by a patch or update down the line (why I keep my systems clean).

        • Gordon says:

          “nd is not built-into OS X and depends on a 3rd party utility that has trouble with some applications.”
          That is incorrect Andrew, you did not read the post by Daniel? IT IS BUILT IN TO OS X and the API…MICROSOFT CHOOSES NOT TO USE THE API…there’s NO 3rd PARTY UTILITY INVOLVED.
          Get that?? It is MS fault that your version of Word does not use a scrolling feature that is built into OS X and part of the API.
          Fine, fault/blame doesn’t matter since it does not do what you want in Word and Windows does (go figure, MS Windows, MS Word), just don’t go around saying it’s not built into the OS, when it is, and that it requires 3rd party support, which it doesn’t. It requires a developer to take advantage of the programming APIs that are offered for programming for the OS.

  6. westech says:

    Gene asked the question “Does windows 7 make a difference?”

    By all accounts it is a big improvement over Vista, so it makes a difference in that sense. Comparisons to OSX show some advantages and some disadvantages, with the majority feeling that OSX is still better. Both are pretty good.

    For Microsoft, there are certainly some users who have upgraded from Vista.

    There has been an uptick in computer sales. Much of this has been in the cheapos. For Microsoft, this is good for unit volume but bad for profits.

    Bottom line, I suspect that there has been small increase in sales. With their cost cutting, I suspect that their profits have also increased, but that their margins are down.

    I look forward to MSFT’s quarterly report on January 28, after Apples report of another blow-out quarter on January 25 and Apple’s special event on January 27.

    Should be interestin.

  7. Andrew says:

    Microsoft has clearly stolen a lot from Apple’s UI over the years, but it has gone in the other direction as well. The little arrow on the icon of an alias that differentiates it from an actual icon was copied from Windows 95, just as alt-tab was copied from Windows 3.

    As someone who uses both systems on a daily basis, this constant copying over the last 20 years is great, it means that for the most part, all I have to do is mentally switch “Command” with “Control” when moving from Mac to Windows and then most things remain the same.

    OS X is clearly more elegant, and yes, a bit more stable, but even Windows 2000 was stable enough to only require reboots when software installs mandated it. I just don’t get the religious fervor that goes along with OS. Its just a way for a computer to launch and interact with applications and peripherals. For me, the most important things are the ability to run native MS Word and instant and reliable sleep.

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