Windows 7… and beyond

The last few years has seen Microsoft lose some of its glitter as its Vista operating system didn’t impress many users. But will Microsoft bounce back and re-affirm its status as the dominant player in the operating system market with Windows 7?

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By  Published  April 7, 2009

The last few years has seen Microsoft lose some of its glitter as its Vista operating system didn’t impress many users. But will Microsoft bounce back and re-affirm its status as the dominant player in the operating system market with Windows 7? Here, we examine a beta of Windows 7 for early indications of things to come and also take a look at what the future might have in store for Microsoft in terms of other interesting technologies the company is researching.

The operating system (OS) - it's an important part of our tech-life that comprises the looking glass through which we access our day-to-day programs. Thus far the majority of end-users have been using a Microsoft operating system such as XP or Vista.

But Microsoft’s grip on end-users has loosened slightly in the last few years. Its Vista OS has not been well-received, and companies such as Apple have capitalised on this state of affairs by gaining ground in computer and OS market share. Even Linux systems have taken a foothold by becoming increasingly integrated in netbooks (many netbooks today come packaged with software such as Ubuntu).

Microsoft however seems intent on re-affirming its dominance in the operating system market by releasing an improved version of Windows, known as Windows 7 (formerly codenamed Blackcomb and Vienna), that is reportedly going to be capable of running on netbooks as well.

The feedback on Windows 7 Beta thus far has been largely positive, with many commentators suggesting it should be a greater success than that of its predecessor. Some have gone as far as saying that Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been.

Windows 7, in many ways, is a tweaked version of Vista. Many of the features that needed improving in Vista have undergone work, while additional touches have been added. A vision that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has had for this latest version is that it should be user-focused.

It will also be inevitable that Windows 7 will be packaged with the new Microsoft Internet Explorer 8. The latest release candidate version of the browser includes features such as private browsing, enhanced navigation, better tab browsing, web slices, search suggestions and a Smartscreen filter, which helps to protect users against malicious websites.

Internet Explorer (IE) currently makes up 68 percent of the browser market; yet, a two-thirds majority is clearly not enough for Microsoft, who has actually lost browser share to other players such as Mozilla Firefox (once upon a time IE used to have a 70% market share).

Seeing as Windows 7 could be released into the market by as soon as the end of 2009, we decided that it was time to take a closer look at Microsoft's new boy on the block, and ascertain whether the hype about it is valid or not. At the end of this feature we look at the future of Microsoft. But let’s first take a look at some of the new features.

Windows 7 will be released as six different editions and Microsoft intends to focus heavily on the ‘Home Premium’ and ‘Professional’ editions. The company plans to use much the same names that it has used with its Vista operating system, though the business edition of Windows 7 will be called Windows 7 Professional (the Vista equal is known as ‘Vista Business’).

The Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 will be sold through retail stores and will also be available through most OEMs. The Home Basic version of Windows 7 is slated for release only in emerging markets while the Enterprise edition will be obtainable only through Volume Licensing.

The ‘Starter’ edition on the flipside will only be made available to select OEMs. Each edition is thus far slated to have all of the features of the more basic editions and this should make upgrading from one version to another a simpler and straightforward exercise.

Like Vista and the older Windows XP OS, Microsoft will launch both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7.

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