Many have already heard that Windows 7 Beta became available to the public last Friday. Any that know me surly realize that I couldn't resist. I have already done two installs of the new OS and here's my report. First thing I notice is the vastly improved performance over its predecessor. My first test was in a VM environment where I could control the parameters to really check out performance. Needless to say I was so impressed that I immediately preformed a fresh install on a test machine that had previously been running Vista Ultimate 32-bit. Windows 7 far out preforms Vista on my test machine, I couldn't be happier. The requirements from Microsoft are a 1 GZH processor, 1 GB ram (compared to 512 MB in Vista), and Direct X 9 compatible graphics. Very similar to Vista, the main difference though, Windows 7 actually runs well with a gig of ram. Vista doesn't really run well with a gig of ram, and basically not at all with a minimum 512 MB.
It's seems Microsoft has really listened to us and our gripes about Vista. Next thing to mention is the new UI. MS's extension of the taskbar as a primary launch surface and the ability to control applications and windows without launching them is very easy to use and impressive overall. Further they have greatly cleaned up the notification area and allowed the user far greater control. This is a welcome change as it has been an annoyance since Windows 95. Additionally they have eliminated the sidebar and now gadgets can be pinned anywhere on the desktop. It seems it really is all about user control and customization in this new version.
I had no trouble joining the system to an Active Directory Domain and or my WSUS system. All drivers and applications that I had running in Vista installed easily save for one. At this point the LogMeIn remote access software is not compatible. Give it time though I'm sure support is on the way. A little further under the hood I see the control panel has been expanded to include even more options than were available in Vista and MS has put back all of the functionality in there backup utility. This is a very good thing as it was a major gripe for me.
Speaking of fixed annoyances they have greatly improved User Account Control (UAC) to have multiple levels of protection and thus fewer notifications depending on the setting. This is a very good thing as most people I know disabled their UAC in Vista because it continually bugged them and therefore lost any security benefit that it may have provided. I was also happy to see that Windows 7 is being offered in both the 32 and 64-bit flavors meaning that at least through this version there will be support for somewhat older hardware.
I was disappointed to see that there is no support for upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP. You must be running Vista with at least SP1 to preform the upgrade. In light of the fact that so many people either did not upgrade to Vista or downgraded back to XP after trying Vista Microsoft needs to consider giving customers this option. Overall I think this OS has some serious improvements over Vista and people should consider upgrading. The performance improvements alone are enough to make it worth your while. I plan to continue using 7 beta until the final version is released so stay tuned.
For more Win 7 info see the Windows Team Blog, or our new Windows 7 page.