Posts Tagged ‘operating-systems’

Windows 7 Was My Idea. No, Really, It Was

My cool new desktop. Snapped and ready for action.

You’ve surely heard by now that there is a new Windows operating system. It’s nothing like XP, and it’s certainly an upgrade from Vista. It’s called “Windows 7,” and Microsoft is hoping that it will revolutionize how their operating system is perceived by users and information technology professionals everywhere. So if you haven’t noticed, this article is about Windows, so if you are a Mac addict, just move on, nothing to see here.

If you’ve read some of my pieces, or follow me on Twitter you know that I’m a PC. It’s not that I hate Macs or anything; it’s just the way things are. Now, this piece isn’t about that argument, this is about Windows 7. Knowing that I’m a PC, Microsoft thought it best to send me a copy of their new operating system. Their spies must have seen that I didn’t have a competent PC to run the new OS on, so they sent me a loaner computer as well. That’s the full disclosure part.

The PC they sent me is a new Asus Eee PC (1008P Seashell Karim Rashid Collection.) Once I figured out that I was missing some drivers in order to turn off the touchpad, it suddenly become a really cool computer. It boasts the Intel® Atomâ„¢ N450 processor, 2GB Memory, a compact 10 inch screen and 320GB 2.5” SATA2 HDD. It makes my old Dell XPS look like stone knives and bear skins. It sucks that I have to give it back, but that’s the breaks.

With it was an installed copy of the Windows 7 Starter OS. It was literally a one-click update to Windows Premium Home Edition. Just enter the product key and bam, done. The thing that struck me right away when I started using the OS, was that it was my idea. Really, every new feature was my idea, and honestly, it was probably yours, too. All those complaints we’ve registered in our heads have been addressed. And if they haven’t, they will be.

There are lots of little changes, the small stuff that makes a difference when navigating an operating system.

One of those small but very important changes is the pin to taskbar function. You can now pin your favorite programs to the taskbar at the bottom. Similar to how they are when opened. So, when you open a new window in that program, there are no additional window tabs. Instead, the pinned icon is highlighted, indicating a window is open. Want to see what is in that window? Simply scroll over it and it will pop up with a preview of the windows open in that program, and you can click on the one you want to switch to.

This is a welcome change from the stacking of previous windows OS. Where multiple windows open in the same program would stack in a list in the taskbar icon. That was ugly and poorly organized. I would set the windows to set up on the taskbar in individual fashion, which would usually make my taskbar fill up to three levels. Just not convenient when working on multiple projects.

One of the other noticeable changes is the way menus operate. Instead of having to dig through multiple menu options, the Windows Explorer window puts the most commonly used items linked on the left, hides the stuff you never use and keeps the libraries for documents, music & videos right up top — because you know that’s the stuff you use the most.

On the downside of this simplicity, if you are trying to use advanced functions that stuff can be kind of difficult to locate for the novice user. If you are familiar with operating systems and where things should be, then it shouldn’t take you too long to figure out.

To find out more about the big little changes, I spoke to Ben Rudolph, PC Evangelist & Gadget Guru at Microsoft. Our conversation was via phone, so the quotes below are paraphrased as best as my distracted brain could transcribe them.

As I mentioned above, there were a lot of big little changes. The general look and feel of the OS, the taskbar pinning, the simplified menus and options. Ben mentioned that it’s not just the visual changes where Windows 7 shows improvement over Vista, but the physical operation as well.

The fundamentals have improved. From start up to shut down, sleep, wake — they are so much faster in Windows 7, so much so that it’s not a big deal to sleep your machine anymore. I have Windows 7 machines that boot in 20 seconds. On an old Windows XP computer, you’d close your lid and it would take like 20 seconds to wake up, in Windows 7 it’s almost instant. It’s faster, smoother and runs lighter.

So once you get the machine booted up, and you change the color scheme and copy over all your music (since Windows 7 was my idea, that should have been already done) you start to notice the visual and basic functional changes in the way the OS behaves. Ben was quick to point out his favorite changes to the functionality, which ended up being mine as well. Perhaps because they are that noticeable and highly used, or perhaps because they were my idea.

Once you get inside the OS, there are two things that are my favorites; the taskbar, how you can pin things to the taskbar — and jump lists. The preview piece on the taskbar is awesome, move your mouse over and get a preview to see what’s there. This came directly from customer feedback. However, when it comes down to it, snap is my number one favorite feature in Windows 7.

Snap is the function we first saw via the commercials in the current ad campaign. One monitor, multiple windows — simply snap them to the sides of the screen. No reason to re-size windows. This is very helpful for all you plagiarizers out there, or just when doing research. We’ve come a long way from Windows 3.1. Ben agrees.

The last time I used Windows 3.1 was a couple years ago, on a virtual machine. The last time I installed it — straight onto a PC — would have been back in 1994. I was a beta tester for Windows 95. It’s kind of fun to see how far things have come from that revolutionary OS.

The biggest part of how Microsoft is working to change their public perception is through community involvement. While not going the road of open source software, they are taking every step of the development to the users through constant focus groups & consumer input. Based on how Windows 7 is built, they seem to be listening. This is important not only if they want to stay competitive with the Mac OS, but if they want to move cleanly into the future of accessibility.

Keeping that community involvement in mind, one has to wonder, what’s next for the Windows OS? I mean, Windows 7 was my idea but I’m fresh out. Ben had some insight into the future of the OS, with a good point about the public perception of Microsoft development, not to mention confirming that Windows 7 was in fact, my idea.

Windows 7 was your idea. Hundreds of thousands of people, millions of hours of conversations and testing. That’s not just related to Windows, that’s related to how we do things now. We have some of the smartest engineers in the world & millions of customers that we learn from every year. From Kinect to Windows Live. It’s not just a couple of smart engineers holed up in a room and releasing something every couple of years.

To that end it’s not like Windows 7 is going to make anyone switch from a Mac to PC, that’s not what this is about. It’s an operating system, not a complete computer package. What Windows 7 will do is change your perception of what Windows can do, and that it’s not the stuffy over complicated OS that we all thought it was. This isn’t XP, this certainly isn’t Vista. It’s a whole new OS. And it was my idea.

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Apple’s Macs Could Gain a Sense of Touch

Perhaps the touch revolution will extend beyond tablets and smartphones and onto our traditional computers. A new patent application shows how Apple might build an iMac or a MacBook with a touchscreen.

It’s a lot more than simply slapping a multitouch screen onto an iMac. Filed earlier this year, the patent application portrays an iMac-like computer that can transition from being used as a traditional mouse- and keyboard-controlled PC into a touchscreen computer. It’s a convertible desktop tablet, so to speak.

The invention described would switch between input modes detecting the position of the screen with an accelerometer or a rotation hinge inside a flexible stand. One input mode would be a high-resolution interface controlled with a mouse and keyboard, and the other method would be a lower-resolution tablet mode for touch controls.

Moving on to notebooks, the patent application says a notebook-like device could transition into a touch-based UI by folding the display, face up, against the keyboard.

To be clear, convertible tablets are nothing new. We’ve seen a handful of convertible tablet notebooks and “kitchen” PCs equipped with touchscreens. However, I’ve had hands-on time with a bunch of them at the Consumer Electronics Show, and they’ve consistently failed to impress, because they’re just touchscreen devices running Windows — a UI designed for keyboards and mice, not ideal for touch controls. Duly, these convertible computers haven’t been popular sellers.

With Apple’s patent application, it sounds like the transition method would involve switching between two operating systems: the Mac OS for PC input and iOS for tablet usage (though they’re technically one OS since they’re carved out of the same core). That important UI transition might actually make a convertible touchscreen computer make sense.

Indeed, Apple appears to be eyeing touchscreens for Macs. Fan blog Patently Apple recently discovered a collection of 10 patent applications covering display technologies, which also allude to a touchscreen display for notebooks. Also, a few rumors emerged earlier this year that Apple was developing a touchscreen iMac.

From Patently Apple

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Asus, MSI Tablets Lead the Charge Against the iPad

Apple is set to face some competition as Taiwanese PC makers get their iPad challengers ready. Companies such as Asus and MSI are showing Android- and Windows-based tablets that they say will be cheaper than the iPad.

At the ongoing Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, Asus announced its first tablet, called the Eee Pad.

The Eee Pad has a 12-inch touchscreen display and is a “full-featured slate computer that serves as a multimedia player, e-reader, compact PC and internet device,” says the company. The Eee Pad has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Windows 7 operating system. The company offers a 10-inch display version of the Eee Pad.

Asus rival MSI is fieldng two tablets: One features the Windows 7 operating system and the other is powered by Google’s Android OS. The tablets, called Wind-Pad, have 10-inch screens, 2 GB of RAM and a 1.6-GHz Atom processor. The tablets will offer 3G and Wi-Fi capability. Both are expected to be available in the third quarter of the year.

“We understand that people are only willing to pay less than $500 for a tablet,” Andy Tung, vice-president of sales for MSI told Wired.com. “And because the OS is one of the biggest costs in the device, our Android tablet will be at least 20 percent cheaper than the Windows version.”

Separately, Korean company Yukyung Tech has demoed an Android tablet under the brand name Viliv. It has a 10-inch capacitive touchscreen and claims to beat the iPad at display quality. The Viliv X10 tablet has an ARM-based processor, USB port, SD card reader, Wi-Fi and 3G capability. The company hasn’t offered detailed specs or pricing for the device.

We haven’t heard about Viliv before, but it’s apparently big in Korea. The company has not said whether its X10 tablet would be available outside the country.

MSI 'Wind-Pad' Tablet

Apple’s iPad has jumpstarted the tablets category. Since it went on sale in April, at least 2 million iPads have been sold, Apple says. Not surprisingly, other PC makers have taken notice of the demand and the hype.

Dell says its 5-inch Android tablet will go on sale in the U.K. starting June 4. The Dell Streak will be free on a $36 (25 pounds) a month data contract with O2, or you’ll be able to buy it outright for $630 (429 pounds).

Consumers that buy these new crop of tablets will consider factors such as mobility and applications, says Tung.

“If you are looking at netbook-like super mobility then a Windows device will be important because you will want to do more than just surf with the tablet,” says Tung. “But if you just want a portable web device, then Android is a better choice.”

At a time when HP has reportedly given up on its Windows-powered Slate in favor of a Palm webOS-based tablet, the arrival of Windows-based tablets should be good news for Microsoft and its fans.

But Microsoft’s vision for a tablet could fall short of consumer expectations, says Michael Cherry, vice-president of research for operating systems at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.

“Microsoft’s vision for the tablet is an extension of the laptop family,” he says. “So things you can do on a tablet are the same as what you can do on a PC. But the downside is the battery life doesn’t last beyond four hours and the device boots slowly — both of which are becoming negative attributes.”

Tung says that MSI has extended the battery life on its tablets to up to eight hours.

Ultimately, Tung says flexibility and options are what will drive tablet sales.

“Apple has a very strong app store, which helps the iPad,” he says. “But there are enough Windows- and Android-based apps out there to make our tablets attractive to consumers.”

Photos: (Masaru Kamikawa/Flickr)

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