Eight Ways Windows 7 Could Flop

By  |  Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 9:34 am

Windows 7What the heck is going on with Microsoft’s rollout of Windows 7? The OS seems to be on schedule to not only meet Microsoft’s timetable but possibly beat it. The free beta version runs better than some shipping versions of Windows I’ve paid for, and takes care of some long-standing problems. No features have been promised for Windows 7 and then deep-sixed when Microsoft couldn’t make them work. And the company’s marketing for the OS to date has been so restrained that it’s practically bashful.

Doesn’t anyone in Redmond remember that Windows upgrades are supposed to show up years late, missing major selling points and including new features of questionable value, and accompanied by marketing claims that no piece of software could live up to?

As far as I can tell at this point, Windows 7 is in surprisingly solid shape. It may well help Microsoft–and, more important, Microsoft customers–bounce back from the mistake that was Windows Vista.  But it won’t be a cakewalk. And I’m worried about at least eight things that could still go awry.

1. PC manufacturers could mess Windows 7 up. This is the potential hobgoblin I fear the most, by far. The Windows 7 beta feels surprisingly sleek and snappy compared to a typical preinstalled Windows Vista setup. But if PC companies lard up W7 with demoware, adware, nagware, and pointlessware–and some of them unquestionably will–they’ll make it vastly less appealing

2. Compatibility issues could fester. Many third-party applications check the version of Windows you’re using during setup–and if they don’t recognize it, they refuse to install. Which means that they may not install if they were written in the pre-Windows 7 era, even if they’d work just fine. Microsoft is trying to work around this by letting Windows 7 selectively fib to apps by claiming to be an earlier version of the OS. But it the one instance so far when I’ve had to resort to this option, it was clunky and didn’t put things completely right. 

3. Microsoft could fail on fit and finish. The current beta is surprisingly polished for an early version, but parts remain unbaked. It still sports some design decisions which I hope are works in progress–like, for instance, the fact that the HomeGroup networking feature chooses an incomprehensible password for you and doesn’t let you change it. If there’s a chance the OS may ship in July, there’s not much time left to fix anything major.

4. Microsoft could charge more than people want to pay. Windows Vista costs up to $340 (for the Ultimate edition), but it’s an upgrade which the company pitched as a radical advance over XP. If folks decide that W7 is what Windows Vista should have been in the first place, they may expect it to cost a lot less.

5. Vista users might expect a great leap forward. Putting price aside, it’s possible that people who are already using Vista–especially those who like it–may look at Windows 7 as being too incremental an upgrade to bother with. If so, they may decide to bide their time until Windows 8 (or whatever it is that succeeds Windows 7) is released.

6. Microsoft’s ads might fizzle. The company seems likely to avoid the “The Wow Starts Now” hype that contributed to Vista’s shaky reputation, which may leave it making only modest claims about W7. And it’s already having trouble articulating why people should choose Windows. It’ll be interesting to see if it can come up with marketing that gets people jazzed up enough about Windows 7 to buy it.

7. XP dead-enders could dig in. There are always some Windows users who are extraordinarily attached to whatever version of the OS they’re using, and choose to hold onto it long after most of the world has moved on. In the case of Windows XP, though, there are far more of those folks than usual, and we don’t know yet if they’ll be any more receptive to Windows 7 than they were to Vista.

8. It could be the wrong OS for the hottest PC category: netbooks. Microsoft says it’s tuning Windows 7 to run better on bare-bones netbooks than Vista does. And netbooks will presumably sport zippier CPUs and more RAM by the time W7 arrives. But it remains to be seen whether the world will be happy with Windows 7 in its final form on the netbooks it runs on.

I’m not saying any or all of these scenarios will happen…but they could. Any further thoughts? Feel free to be either more pessimistic or more optimistic…


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13 Comments For This Post

  1. Bill Pytlovany Says:

    One more…
    All the influential PC editors these days are now using a Mac.


  2. stoperror Says:

    Or it could be the fact that Windows 7 dropped the classic start menu? I personally use it as it’s faster. When ever I use Vista (which is very rare) I use Win+R not the stupid instant search feature.

  3. thehumanyawn Says:

    Amen to that!

  4. tom b Says:

    Still not UNIX? wake me up when MSFT decides it wants to ante up to the table.

  5. Friendly Freddie Says:

    You make the statement: “If there’s a chance the OS may ship in July.” This is ther first that I have heard anyone speculate on a date earlier than the beginning of 2010, or perhaps pre-installed in the PC manufacturer’s Christmas 2009 offerings. I sure would like to know where you came up with this earlier launch date.
    In an attempt to create a steady flow of ongoing revenue, Microsoft has been trying to move away from the one-time sale to a pay as you go system as they have done with Windows Live OneCare. I have been wondering if perhaps Windows 7 would be their first subscription operating system. That could be the ninth way that it could flop.

  6. Marc Klink Says:

    After looking at 7, and using it for a few days, I am certain that I will not be lining up to buy it. I don’t consider myself a person belonging to your point #7, but I am awaiting something to come from Microsoft that is better than Windows XP. There is one possibility I might switch to something else, 64bits, and if I do, it will be with Vista, due precisely to the reasons given above, lack of a logical, drill-down, organized start menu.

    (and if I could get a 64bit copy of Windows Server 2003 64bit, I’d make the changes to XP’ize it, and be happy for a few more years.

  7. T.R. Smith Says:

    I have a fairly new PC with Vista and now Windows 7 , people like me
    are going to have a hard time to change again, their OS to something new
    this quick. Windows needs to give people a better deal on windows 7
    or we will just keep Vista until something better shows up.

  8. Alex Says:

    Current betas are still reported to have performance on par with Vista.

    So they’re continuing to release operating systems slower than free alternatives?

    How is MS solving Windows? Throw more Windows at it…Makes no sense.

  9. Rod Carlson Says:

    I keep hearing about Windows having virtual XP. Big deal, I have Ubuntu Linux with free Sun virtual box. I can run XP on linux in a virtual machine. That is what I’d suggest people that like XP but not wanting to up the ante for Vista 7 or whatever they want to call it. Interestingly I tried to install XP on a new desktop and it wouldn’t interface with the wireless network card. So I installed Ubuntu, the sun Virtual box, and then XP in the Virtual Box. Now I love Ubuntu as my primary system because its free, got great applications, and no virus problems. And if I need to use those old XP applications for my work, I can still start a virtual machine. Fact is I’m finding less and less need to start the old XP box up in a virtual machine, because I love Ubuntu so much. Here is the truth about Ubuntu, its free, works great, has a few kinks setting up the wireless initially. But, after that its just a love that keeps growing on you. I feel so free being away from all the microsoft crap. Also, don’t worry about the ugly brown standard configuration of Ubuntu after installation. I’ve spent a day downloading the skins I like and it looks very colorful and state of the art. I will not lie to those who are tired of being milked by Microsoft, Ubuntu doesn’t provide the best support for video gaming, so you will still want a copy of XP on a dual boot. Ubuntu as i said takes a little getting used to as its protection of kernels and files requires you use sudo (super user). At max you are looking at 3 days setup to configure it the way you like. Then the benefits are astounding, no virus, no BS. Low maintenance. Please I beg you to stop torturing yourselves and give linux Ubuntu a try before swallowing the Microsoft cyanide candy.

  10. Hugh G. Rection Says:

    I’ve tested Windows 7 in VirtualBox and to me there is no functional improvement over XP noticeable to me. It’s all just a load of appearance changes, and unfortunately is for the worse. My first encounter with those awful washed out pastel colors was with the latest MSN Messenger in XP. Normally appearance isn’t that important to me, but that was just to awful to put up with. To my disappointment Windows 7 uses the same horrible themes. They all look alike and there’s no way to get something more contrast rich and consistent that also looks at least better than the classic Windows 3.1 theme. XP’s Luna is better in the sense that the window frames stand out from the content and are consistent in color on all sides. This makes using a laptop outdoors easier too. Other OS’ are much better at this, especially Linux+Gnome when it comes to themes. I think this could be a major failure point for Windows 7. At least for me then, I’m going to stick with Ubuntu and Windows XP 64 bit until 2014 or until Microsoft release a new OS that at least looks somewhat reasonable, but I’m not too optimistic about it because what can they improve really besides appearances over and over again? I think MS has had it’s prime time with XP.

  11. Martin Says:

    I agree with Rod, after installing Ubuntu on my Dell Latitude in dual boot mode, I found myself working for several days in a row without having to boot XP for some misc app that required it. I am now going to try the Virtual Box for those few apps needing XP and I believe at that point, I can remove the dual boot XP partition. I don’t do games so that’s not an issue for me.

    I have also purchased a Dell for my son with Ubuntu on it (although Dell doesn’t do a good job supporting it). With OpenOffice 3.1 on it, he’ll never know what he’s missing from the XP world (hint, he’s not missing anything). My 2nd son has an iMac which was my first and only mistake with Apple. They’re cute but my son’s model broke after only 13 months and the $900 ‘needs new main logic board’ response from Apple didn’t cut it for me. He’s now shopping for a Latitude or System76 which will have Ubuntu on it.

    In order for Microsoft to survive, they need to focus on application functionality and cross platform compatibility, I don’t care about he OS anymore, I need to get my work done, period.

  12. George Costanza Says:


  13. Leno Says:

    After being sick of gaysoft for quite some time (still using xp on pc), i decided to move over to Ubuntu also, its kickass. If only it were possible to get games running on it in native speeds, alas i will just have to keep using windows with all its crashes and flaws until something happens for the better.