Windows 7 reported "stable" – do you care?

Microsoft: Help Us Suck Less

Jack Webster claims that the Window 7 pre-beta is stable. I have a hard time getting excited about this. Surely Microsoft has learned from its mistakes and can make reasonably stable software now, right?

Will Windows 7 be all that?

Jack also enthuses

The install was complete in under an hour, and I was ready to go! It feels funny, as Macintosh users usually exclaim, that the computer is ready to use the first time you start up. Windows 7 has made a decent step towards this. It comes packed with more drivers than Vista, and I was able to plug some pretty obscure accessories that failed with Vista, but worked with 7.

Really? Under an hour to install a new OS at the end of the year 2008? I hate to play the GNU/Linux fanboy here, but complete Linux installs have been installed in under 30 minutes for years now, and they’ve included enough drivers for mainstream (and some esoteric) hardware as well. I can’t remember the last time I had to install a Linux driver for an Ethernet card, and yet on mainstream commodity PCs running Windows XP and Vista I still need to download and install an Ethernet driver! And of course, most GNU/Linux distributions bundle the full OpenOffice suite, too, so you’re ready to actually use your computer as soon as the install is finished.

Including a robust set of hardware drivers is a good thing, to be sure, but is that sufficient? Last night I had to print something, and Ubuntu 8.10 on my laptop magically found and configured my HP 5850 wireless printer. No bogus “solutions suite” or bloatware bundle or any of that hogwash. It just worked. Assuming Windows 7 bundles drivers, will the installation be as hands-off?

Jack also cautions us that with Windows 7 “[y]ou will still need to install a security suite.” Why? It’s 2008, almost 2009, and Microsoft has been battling the bad press of security vulnerabilities for more than a decade. I understand the importance of backwards compatibility, but I think most (if not all) users would happily exchange that for a more secure foundation on which the OS is built. A better security model would demonstrate that Microsoft really does care where users want to go today.

I’m sure that Windows 7 will be an improvement — how could it not be — but I’m also of the opinion that it’s too little too late. Long-time Windows users I know are switching to Mac OS X in droves, and more and more people are experimenting with and liking GNU/Linux. I’m not saying that Microsoft is going to close its doors any time soon, but I think the strength of their hegemony is definitely waning.