Windows 7 … Not for Families Anymore

When Windows 7 was released, one of the most popular offerings was the Windows 7 Home Premium “Family Pack”, which allowed users to purchase three Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade licenses for $150. This was a significant discount as compared to about $120 per upgrade. As expected, it was one of the most popular offerings.

Microsoft said that the deal would run only while supplies lasted. However, I don’t think anybody thought that supplies would only last until about December 1st – just barely over one month from the October 22nd launch of Windows 7. And many stores report that they were out of the Family Packs weeks ago.

Not surprisingly, a major backlash has developed. Many people believe that Microsoft didn’t actually run out of supply, but rather intentionally killed the offer just prior to the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Regardless of the reason, this could turn out to be a significant PR black eye for Microsoft. As Microsoft is still vulnerable right now from its Vista hangover, angering customers around the holiday season could hurt the adoption of Windows 7 in the consumer market. Since many pundits feel that Microsoft is extremely vulnerable in the consumer market, this issue could quickly snowball. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft reverses course and just how soon they do it.

I Wonder Whose Idea This Was …


If you’ve been watching any TV in the last few weeks, you’ve most likely seen Microsoft’s ad campaign for Windows 7 – where supposedly real people claim that various features in Windows 7 were their idea. Cute, but I think that Microsoft would do better simply showcasing all those new features. Perhaps that speaks volumes in and of itself.

But I digress. A recent study shows that Windows 7 is practically just as susceptible to malicious software as previous versions of Windows. As I’ve said many times before, the “elephant in the room” for Microsoft is the ever-escalating issue of viruses, spyware, and all other forms of malicious software that all versions of Windows is vulnerable to. All the bells and whistles in the world won’t do much to change the growing perception among consumers that Windows is inherently insecure. But there’s not much Microsoft can do about it without drastically affecting backwards compatibility. Which is why Microsoft will continue to sidestep the issue – and why many of their users will continue to sidestep to other platforms.

Seventh Heaven?

Windows 7 is now officially available for purchase and should be pre-installed on any newly purchased Windows computers. So now is the time for reality to set in. Is Windows 7 going to restore Microsoft’s credibility, or will it be another failure like Vista?

For the record, I do not recommend that users attempt to upgrade to Windows 7 right away, at least on computers that are considered important (if you have spare machines or virtual machine software feel free to go for it!). It is prudent to allow the early adopters to unearth real-world issues and let Microsoft release their first wave of updates before attempting to migrate to Windows 7.

Windows 7 has been getting good reviews during its testing phase. However, so did Vista. But this time it seems that Microsoft has taken the time to properly and thoroughly test this release of Windows (you may or may not recall that Microsoft was under great pressure to release the long-delayed Vista). However, with relatively few perceptible feature improvements, there are many that feel Windows 7 is mostly just a bug-fix release for Vista.

So will Windows 7 triumph or bomb? I think that the end result will be somewhere in the middle. Windows 7 will likely be perceived as better than Vista (assuming no major catastrophes), so the extremely negative reputation of Microsoft’s shipping operating system will be lost. And since most new PCs will ship with Windows 7, it will not be hard for Microsoft to claim that Windows 7 is being adopted at a steady rate (just like they did with Vista – even if the customer downgraded to XP). However, the flip side will be that most users won’t really find anything all that great about Windows 7, so it won’t generate any great buzz as compared to other popular technologies. Basically, I believe Windows 7 will be adequate for most Windows users so it will do well enough in the market, but it won’t provide any breakthrough new features that will rank it high in the minds of the mainstream.

The other factor that will drag on Windows 7 is the ever present threat of viruses and spyware. Windows 7 is virtually just as vulnerable to these threats as the previous few versions of Windows were. As adequate as Windows 7 may be, malware infections will continue to cause users frustrations. In my observation, malware is the most visible reason that users switch to other operating systems. Yes, Vista was bad, but many users will just put up with bad. However, malware is intrusive and dealing with it is time-consuming and expensive. Unless Microsoft can address this issue, it will continue to be the elephant in the room that will cost them mind and market-share in the long run.

Windows 7 Bug Revisited

My previous article on a recently discovered Windows 7 bug evoked a few comments regarding the severity of the bug and if it is really a big deal or not. I thought I’d follow up on that article to make sure I got my point across.

The severity of the bug isn’t really an issue at this point. The real issue is how the industry and the public react to this news. It seems the whole world is watching with a very keen eye how Windows 7 turns out. Microsoft is very vulnerable to bad publicity at this point. They desperately want to distance themselves from Vista. The worst thing that could happen to them is for Windows 7 to develop a bad reputation at launch.

It won’t take too many more reports of problems like this – justified or not – to give Windows 7 a black eye. So again, we’ll all wait and see how it all shakes out. This fall should be very interesting to say the least.

Critical Windows 7 Bug Discovered

A critical Windows 7 bug has been uncovered that can cause a complete “blue screen” crash when triggered. You can read more about it at InfoWorld’s site.

The bug is triggered during the use of a disk checking utility that is part of the Windows OS. While the use of this utility is not too common by average users, it is definitely heavily used by power users and IT professionals. The real problem is that this bug may be rooted in the file system code, which is causing a great deal of worry in the IT industry. As quoted in the InfoWorld article:

The bottom line: A file system-level bug, at this late stage in the development cycle, should be considered a showstopper by most IT organizations.

A recent survey showed that only 16% of companies plan to deploy Windows 7 within a year. With the economy straining IT resources already, news like this may only serve to make companies put off Windows 7 even longer. The longer it takes for Windows 7 to gain significant traction in the business market, the longer the “Vista hangover” effect will haunt Microsoft, allowing competitors to continue to gain marketshare. Microsoft really needs to hit a home run with Windows 7, so this discovery is certainly unwelcome news to them.

Windows 7 Release Date Confirmed

A post on the Windows Team Blog states that Windows 7 will be on store shelves October 22nd. Additionally, the “release to manufacturing” or RTM date will be sometime in late July. RTM is basically a term for the final production version of a software project, or the version that will be pressed onto discs. Basically, Microsoft partner companies will have access to the production version of Windows 7 about 3 months before it is released to the general public. Companies that will receive the RTM code are usually PC manufacturers, software developers, and large corporations.

It is interesting to note that while this blog post seems to come from an “official” Microsoft source, there has not been a truly offical press release from Microsoft yet on this. Why, I’m not sure. Perhaps they will hold a press conference soon and just wanted to float the news via the blogosphere first.

So assuming this info is true, Microsoft will have Windows 7 available in time for the holiday shopping season, which should make PC manufacturers happy since they should see a surge in sales. Microsoft was not able to make this happen with Vista, which in hindsight, was probably for the best.

So we will now see what will come of Windows 7. Will it be simply “a stripped down version of Vista” that brings nothing new to the OS table, or will it be well-received and bring some credibility back to Microsoft. It should be an interesting last quarter of 2009.

One More and We’ve Got Steak Sauce

I was checking my e-mail this morning and saw I had a message from one of my friends on Facebook. As usual, I click on the link within the e-mail to take me directly to that message on Facebook’s site. However, this time my web browser didn’t open up to Facebook. It took me to some strange site with a numeric address. After a few seconds I realized I had been the victim of a malware attack. Lucky for me, I use a Mac so the attack was useless on my computer. I noticed that a Windows EXE file had been downloaded, so out of curiosity, I scanned the file using ClamAV for Mac and it identified it as the Koobface worm. A little research on Google found that a new variety of the Koobface worm had just started making the rounds the day before. One article stated that this was the 56th variant of the Koobface worm. An astute commenter noted that one more and we’d have 57 varieties, just like Heinz. Heinz 57, of course, is their famous steak sauce.

More importantly, this latest example of a Windows vulnerability highlights just how risky it is to use a Windows-based computer in today’s world. If my computer were running Windows, I could have easily gotten infected this morning. It would have depended on whether or not my anti-virus software was completely up-to-date and/or if other security measures in place were able to stop this worm. Apparently, enough users out there aren’t well protected enough for this worm to be spreading like it is. Those that consider themselves technical “elite” will chide me for falling for this e-mail, and I probably should have noticed that the message was a little suspiscious. But honestly, why should I have to ensure that my computer has constantly updated multiple layers of security and always be viligant that the next e-mail message I open may hold impending doom? I shouldn’t – and long ago I made the conscious decision to not put up with it.

Which brings us to the crux of this article. Increasingly, it seems more and more people are making the decision to not put up with it anymore and switching to the Mac (including, today, that poor Facebook friend who sent me the worm). After the unmitigated disaster that Windows Vista has been for Microsoft, the company has quickly moved to bring out the next version of their operating system as soon as possible. They’ve also spent a lot of money on advertising trying to distance themselves from the “Vista” name and simultaneously undo the momentum that Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign has generated for Macintosh sales.

This is curious, given that Microsoft still holds approximately 90% marketshare vs. Apple’s approximate 10%. True, Apple’s share is currently about double of their previous historical best, but the desparate nature of Microsoft’s ad campaigns seems out of place here. It’s as if they know something we don’t know and have a reason to be scared. Perhaps Microsoft feels their future hangs in the balance with the release of Windows 7. Regardless of what they really think, they are doing a great job of developing the perception that they are betting the farm on Windows 7. And as the old saying goes, perception is reality.

The problem is that as much as Microsoft tries hard to distance itself from Vista, every time a new virus or malware hits the news, it’s yet another reminder that Windows is not secure. And similarly to many political races, it could be this issue and this issue alone that determines the final outcome. Microsoft claims they are shooting for a Windows 7 release by the end of this year. So until then, we shall see …

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