TechWorld

Enough snap judgements about Windows 7

What happened to careful evaluation of actual products? Instant analyses of the pre-beta version of Windows 7 aren't worth the time it takes to read them.

Much like the political advertisements that have finally stopped invading our homes, the constant argument over whether Vista is good or bad is over. Is that because a final determination has been reached? Hardly. It’s because the Microsoft lovers have a new candidate to extol -- and the Microsoft haters have a new target to fire upon, thanks to Windows 7.

My esteemed colleague Randall C. Kennedy fired the first shots about the evaluation software Microsoft showed off at PDC (Professional Developers Conference) 2008. I liked some of the comments he received (such as "It's a PRE-BETA!", "Randall, be honest with us, you didn’t really see Windows 7, did you?", and "this has got to be one of the worst pieces of technology journalism I've ever read").

Yet I have to defend Randall here. I've read a lot of his work and he didn't start out as a "technical tabloid journalist" (as I like to call 'em). I believe the readers love this stuff like Romans flocking to the arena to see if a gladiator will get crushed in the games. Years back, none of us would start tearing into a technology until we had something substantial to work with. Seriously: a pre-beta? That’s worth a paragraph, maybe.

On the other hand, Randall's take-no-prisoners approach serves to balance the opinions of journalists who offer knee-jerk praise of Microsoft. Some of us are too eager to support the company rather than discuss the technology -- and that makes us sloppy journalists, too. We ignore the obvious flaws of the OS and simply support it because our journalistic nemeses are tearing down everything in sight.

Here is the truth about Windows 7: Until we get some real beta/RC releases, there is nothing much to talk about. Are there promised features and ideas that are near completion? Absolutely. The New York Times spoke of 10 features for the enterprise world that may turn heads (eventually). Many of these features, such as BranchCache and DirectAccess, require a future Microsoft release that is in the works: Server 2008 R2. Other items are in the offing, including PowerShell (actually a graphical interface to PowerShell scripting, which would be very cool), DNS Security Support, VHD Boot, AppLocker, BitLocker to Go, and enhanced search features.

One of the more comical statements made regarding Windows 7 was that "it looks just like Vista!" Apparently, Vista is so hated by some, if Windows 7 even bears a resemblance, it must be bad. Where's the technical depth in that statement? We used to have benchmark testing and application integrity and performance critiques. Besides, Microsoft has changed the UI enough to assuage an angry mob of Vista detractors.

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Let's put the swords down for a moment and get back to the basics of what we all want. We want an OS that performs well, is easy to work with, never crashes, and makes us feel cool all at the same time.

So let's reserve judgment. Windows 7 should be given a chance by anyone reading this column. It's not like we’re going to have any shortage of feedback over time. For example, Long Zheng, a well known blogger who started the site istartedsomething.com, has a new site called the Windows 7 Taskforce, where users can find, publish, and rate the user experience details of Windows 7.

My plea to all my fellow technical journalist colleagues is simple: Wait! If Windows 7 turns out to be great, give credit where credit is due. And if Windows 7 stinks, there will be plenty of time to write about it.