Are you ready for Windows 7?

Don't expect a slimmed-down OS: If you can't run Vista, you won't be able to run Windows 7

"Hold the line!" That's the new rallying cry for the core Windows development team. Add new features. Tweak existing ones. But whatever you do, don't make Windows 7 any slower or fatter than Vista.

I have little doubt those are the marching orders for Windows 7, given the tight release timeframe of 18 to 24 months plus various reports of early Milestone builds. More ambitious changes would risk another -- and potentially fatal -- Longhorn-style delay. Windows 7 will be exactly what the internal Microsoft working title conveys: the seventh (actually fifth) generation of the Windows NT code base -- the same code base that forms the basis of Windows XP and Vista today.

Shocking? Only if you're one of the deluded Save XP die-hards who bought into the whole Windows 7 uber alles mystique. For these lost souls, the next Windows is more than just another version. It's a true panacea, a conduit through which they can pour all of their anti-Vista angst. Don't like UAC? Windows 7 will fix that. Frustrated by Vista's sluggish performance? Windows 7 will run circles around it.

Reality check: Windows 7 will be a lot like Vista. In fact, it'll be more like an extensive Service Pack (think Windows XP SP2 and/or the various NT Option Packs of yore) than a major new release. Big ideas and big new features are what got Microsoft into the whole "Longhorn reset" mess in the first place.

This is actually a good thing. Despite the criticisms leveled against it (including more than one heated diatribe by yours truly), Vista isn't really flawed in any fundamental way. Yes, it's slower than XP -- but that was to be expected given its more complex code paths. Likewise, the "girth" issues were somewhat inevitable. Meanwhile, the hardware base is slowly catching up to where it needs to be to support a more complex Windows OS.

I'd even go so far as to say that, if Vista were launched today -- with the SP1 tweaks and improved device driver ecosystem in place -- it would fare a lot better than it did. But hindsight is 20/20. The future, in the form of Windows 7, is all about shipping an incremental follow-on to Vista that shores up the NT code base once and for all.

The good news is that this also makes speculating about the next version's runtime behavior a lot easier. After all, if Windows 7 is just Windows Vista with some performance and usability tweaks, it means we can deduce a lot about the product's system requirements and compatibility with the installed base by examining performance and usage data collected from systems running its immediate predecessors, Windows "5" (also known as XP) and "6" (also known as Vista).

Peering into the future with Windows Sentinel

Enter the Windows Sentinel project. With nearly 2,000 contributing systems, the exo.repository -- which is the heart of Windows Sentinel -- provides us with a representative sample of Windows-based systems running a mixture of versions (XP, 2003, Vista, 2008) and workloads (business productivity, analytics, home/personal).

Basically, we have our finger on the pulse of the Windows landscape. And by measuring that pulse, plus a few other metrics (and some educated guessing), we can tell a lot about how Windows 7 will be received when it ships.

For example, we can tell right now that roughly 29 per cent of current systems will be able to run Windows 7, although not always with adequate performance.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Randall C. Kennedy

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?