Microsoft is pins its hopes on Windows 7 to breathe new life into a PC world. So far most computer users are running XP -- an operating system that was released in the early days of the Bush administration.
Experts expect that PC users will change their operating system for the first time in about eight years when Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) launches Windows 7 on Oct. 22.
Microsoft's last operating system, Windows Vista, was a disaster when it was released in 2007. Vista was plagued by bugs, software incompatibilities, sluggishness and annoying security alerts. The episode nearly destroyed the tech giant's reputation with consumers.
"The stakes for Microsoft are astronomically high after the Vista debacle," said Scott Anthony, managing director of Innosight Ventures, a venture capital and consulting firm. "There is a lot of hunger for computing power around the world, and this release will be a real test for Microsoft," CNNMoney.com reports.
It was also reported, although changes are more modest than those made in Windows Vista, the product has been both on time and well received by testers and reviewers alike. Close cooperation with the PC makers has resulted in a product that adds few blockbuster features but is roundly praised for making everyday computing tasks simpler and more elegant.
Many of the new features, such as support for iPhone-style touch interfaces, have been heavily influenced by the work with PC manufacturers. Among the first things Sinofsky did upon taking the reins of Windows development in 2006 was to study what happened to Windows when the bits left Redmond and made their way onto new PCs.
When finally asked for their early input, computer makers were not shy with their ideas for how Microsoft could do better. Indeed, the computer makers' fingerprints can be found all over the product from the way it supports touch input to which features are included in which versions of the product.
"I think I was hated in Redmond," said Sony senior manager Xavier Lauwaert. "I just spoke out every time," CNET News reports.
In the meantime, customers who bought a PC with Vista Home Premium or higher on June 26 or later are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 7. To test whether your PC and software are compatible with Windows 7, Microsoft has released an Upgrade Advisor and Compatibility Center.
Microsoft has had some bumps along the way, including a run-in with European Union antitrust officials, who are now testing a "ballot browser" that would require Microsoft to provide options other than Internet Explorer during Windows 7 installation.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to speak at a Manhattan launch event Thursday morning, and PCMag.com will be there to cover his speech. Until then, check out PCMag.com's extensive Windows 7 coverage and some of the highlights from the past year, PC Magazine reports.