Microsoft, Google make sure IT has no dull moments

Will you be there at a midnight Windows 7 launch in your local store? Or will you wait another year to see what Google Chrome OS might be able to do for you in the future?

Microsoft is launching Windows 7, Google has fired back with Chrome OS, and today Microsoft is turning up the volume on Office 2010. That's a lot to juggle, and soon you'll be asking yourself: Can I afford to upgrade or can I afford not to upgrade?

Let's first review what's coming down the pike and when. It starts with the official scheduled release of the new Microsoft Windows 7 operating system on October 22.

That's a Big Change Right There

Windows 7 has been getting many accolades from beta testers and reviewers, but that's pretty easy when it's being compared to Microsoft Vista, which was disappointing for many due to wide-ranging hardware and software incompatibilities and other problems, such as software bugs. Lots of users couldn't make their favorite programs, printers, and other peripheral devices work with Vista, highlighting glaring shortcomings.

Then there's the anticipated release of Microsoft's new Office 2010 suites in the first half of next year, with the usual new features and bells and whistles. Users often love the included new features, but do they really need them and the learning curves that are required?

And as if that's not enough change for now, Google last week unveiled its plans for its new Google Chrome OS operating system, aimed initially at netbook-sized computers, for release by the end of 2010.

So what's a tech-loving consumer to do? Are you the upgrading kind? That's going to be a key question.

And if you are, does that mean you'll buy a copy of the new Windows 7 and install it yourself or will you wait and buy a new computer that already has it loaded so you don't have to deal with the install?

And, even more importantly, will you take the plunge immediately upon its release or will you wait a bit to see how it all shakes out for others?

Ah, isn't a new Windows operating system release fun?

Here are Some Options for You.

If you are getting a stomach ache just thinking about doing the upgrade to Windows 7 by yourself on your present computer, then maybe you should consider replacing your machine. The upgrade itself is usually not a big problem, but there are plenty of landmines out there and you never really know what could happen.

The next issue is timing -- do you want to buy it right away on October 22 or do you want to wait to see how others are faring with it and read the first news reports from new users?

I think that's always a good idea.

Back in August 1995, when we were still using Windows 3.11 for Workgroups and DOS 5.22 on our early Intel Pentium-running computers, Microsoft released Windows 95. It was a huge splash and millions of people filled stores at midnight to try to be first in line for a copy. Talk about hoopla!

I admit, I was there, too, watching the chaos and feeling the excitement in the air.

But I didn't buy it and install it until six months went by; just to be sure it was worthwhile. By then, I was prepared, psyched, and the upgrade went beautifully. That was definitely a worthwhile move up the Windows food chain.

The same sort of upgrade worry has surrounded the release of every new Windows version. It happened again with the upgrade from Windows 98 (and the widely-despised Windows Me) to Windows XP, though that was an absolutely worthwhile upgrade to perhaps what has been the best Windows operating system built so far for consumers.

In the last couple years, some people have been so averse to using Vista that they've gone to extremes to find computers they can still buy that run Windows XP.

But Will You Pay for These Innovations?

So, what are you thinking about the upcoming releases of Windows 7, Office 2010, and Google Chrome OS?

Obviously, the money issue comes into play for Windows 7 and Office 2010, because consumers like you will have to decide if the products are worth the money to buy them.

Chrome OS is open source and will have free versions when it eventually is ready, so there's no money issue there.

I guess I just wonder, with all the economic uncertainly that lingers and people worrying about their jobs, houses, bank accounts and college funds, where do the newest Windows programs rank up on their scales of importance?

For the zaniest tech-lovers, they'll buy it right away and play with it.

What about the rest of you?

Tell us what you are thinking.

Will you be there at a midnight Windows 7 launch in your local Best Buy or Staples store, waiting to bring all of that exciting shrink-wrapped code home for your computer? Or will you wait another year to see what Google Chrome OS might be able to do for you in the future?

Tell us your stories.

We're all ears.

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Todd R. Weiss

PC World (US online)
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