I’d say Microsoft made its best post-Vista move recently. Windows 7 will come in the same options as Vista (except Business is now Professional again), except only Home Business and Professional will be publicly available for retail.
Microsoft seems to be previewing the future of the Windows UI with Office 14. Take a look at SharePoint’s window border. It may be that, with Microsoft flattening the Windows interface in Windows 7 (as can be easily seen in the new Explorers – the file manager and Internet Explorer), Office is to follow suit. Besides a flatter and brighter ribbon, the Aero interface is to be flatter as well.
Here’s something I was genuinely thinking lately: is Microsoft Research the best thing Microsoft has to offer today? Seriously, think about it. Forget Windows 7; forget Office 14; forget Live Search; forget the Zune. Here are a few things, oriented to both developers and consumers, that are currently being offered from Microsoft Research:
- Songsmith – Ok, I must admit that the ad is really cheesy, but it seems like a feature that Apple should have put in GarageBand. It’s easier to sing into a microphone and have the program make up the song for you rather than pulling out instruments and messing around with them.”Songsmith comes up with a music that matches your voice,” touts the ad, which seems very interesting. Even better would be a mixture of the two. (By the way, is it just me or is that a MacBook Pro they used, using a flower sticker to cover up the Apple logo?)
- Kodu – I’d bet a lot of younger children would like to write their own games on their computer. With Kodu, anyone (but it’s being marketed for children) can visually develop a game without typing out any code. I’m not sure if you need some Kodu interpreter to run the games or if they can run as stand-alone application on PCs and Xboxe 360s, but it seems very enticing.
- WorldWide Telescope – It seems that WWT (as Microsoft abbreviates it) is a sort of Google Earth for the rest of the universe.
- Boogie and Spec# – Boogie is an “intermediate program verification language” and Spec# is something similar, except it developed separately into a separate programming language. Neither of the websites make it very clear as to what each of the products is.
- Coconut – a .NET library for working with matrix mathematics
- Domestic 2.0 – this is more of a philosophical project that tries to design new user experiences based on their socio-domestic background.
So, I went onto MSDN, downloaded my copy of Windows 7 Beta (build 7000), and here are a few notes of what I think of the new version of Windows, specifically my overall impression of it, the new Aero and system-wide features, the interface redesigns, and the overall usability of the new operating system.
Setup is surprisingly beautiful for Microsoft’s previous standards, especially the boot screen, which says “Starting Windows” and after a while little balls come flying out and turn into a flashing Windows logo, and the “Setup is checking your computer” part.
I originally thought the taskbar would look too big, but it looks really nice and the look was well thought-out. When you hover over an inactive application’s icon, a little blue light appears under it, with two lines on the side. I decided to launch IE. On hovering, a white light follows the mouse cursor and the background adapts to the app. It’s nice to be able to close an app via thumbnails. It really reminds me of the dock in Mac OS X, or (as some Microsoft reps like to call it), a copy of the Windows 1 and Windows 2 desktop. Right…
The notification bar seems too empty. The icons are too small. Perhaps 2 rows like in KDE? on hover, a blue triangle appears under the icons.
Aero Peek isn’t very obvious. You have to hover over the “Show Desktop” button. It can also be enabled when you hover over a thumbnail so you can see where the window is on the desktop.
Aero Snaps was already available in previous versions of Windows, but fairly hidden and called “Arrange windows horizontally/vertically” and “Cascade windows” instead of “Snaps.”
Windows is still obviously document-focused instead of app-focused like OS X. If you have two windows of Word open and one of Paint, and you use “Aero Shake” (when you shake a window to minimize all the other ones), all other windows go down and all you have is a lone window. Very useful, though
Jump lists are nice. Not much to say about them, though, except there isn’t an exact standard to what their content should be.
Gadgets are now seen as separate Windows, which may go in front of others, closed, etc. I’m glad there’s no sidebar anymore, and the new free gadgets remind me of KDE 4.
XPS viewer isn’t IE and is obviously written in WPF.
- Interface is too flat
- there’s a special toolbar just for web slices and bookmarks. a bookmark bar is what I’ve been waiting for for a long time.
- on first open, you have an option to turn on Suggested Sites, a web slice that recommends sites based on your browsing history.
- Nicely enough, the default search provider is Google (finally!)
Explorer (file browser)
- brighter look
- cleaner than the Vista explorer
- you can now resize the space between the address bar and the search bar
I find it a nice touch that, unless you’re hovering over the drop-down lists on the sidebar, the little arrows for the lists are hidden.
Apparently, some people have already gotten their hands on the Windows 7 Beta, which is supposed to be released in January. To avoid any problems, I’ll be waiting until then to try it out and post a review of what I think of the new OS.
A few days after Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex was released, I decided to give it a test drive in my trial of VMware Fusion. I was hoping for an awesome new experience, like I got back in the days of Gutsy Gibbon, but I didn’t get an Intrepid Ibex. Just a Featureless Ibex.