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Windows 7 Buzz Could Hold Off Mac and Linux

Earlier this month, Microsoft lifted the veil of secrecy that’s surrounded their upcoming operating system, Windows 7, and allowed anyone who wanted to take the new OS for a spin to download the ISO file, burn a disc and give it a go.

Feedback from people who’ve actually tried the OS (as opposed to armchair beta testers who seem to have the amazing ability to try out an OS without even downloading it) seems to be very positive indeed.

Sure, a few bugs have come to light, but that’s to be expected – after all, it’s a beta – but despite this the praise keeps on rolling in. While performance, reliability and compatibility issues quickly mired the Vista beta (issues that persisted in the final RTM code), the Windows 7 beta is drowning in praise.

Does a good OS from Microsoft put the pressure back on Apple and the Linux development community? After all, both the Mac OS and Linux have benefitted from the fact that early adopters of Vista experienced declared the OS a lemon, with the worldwide market share in both OSes climbing significantly over the past couple of years.

I was fortunate enough to get early access to the beta 1 code for Windows 7, and despite it being Christmas Eve, I took the time to install the OS on a couple of test systems, along with a few virtual PCs.

[Editor’s note: Adrian, on Christmas Eve? Get a life, man.]

Immediately I was impressed by the speed of the OS, and after a little time using the OS, I found that both reliability and compatibility with my current ecosystem of hardware and software was excellent.

I had absolutely no trouble getting the Windows 7 beta installed on both new hardware and older hardware. Whereas Vista had presented one headache after another, Windows 7 just worked.

But what impressed me the most about Windows 7 was how fast it was. Not only was it perceptibly faster than Windows Vista (an OS that many claim – incorrectly now following SP1 – is a dog when it comes to performance), but on the same hardware it was significantly faster than XP.

And remember, this isn’t the final code that’s been optimized for speed, this is beta code that contains a lot of diagnostic stuff that’s temporary. I can only assume that the final release candidate code will be faster. At the very least I’m not expecting it to be any slower!

So, putting my Windows 7 beta experience together with the experiences of others that I have come across on forums, blogs and in person, it would seem that Windows 7 has the makings of being a good OS, better than both XP and Vista no matter what metric you use to measure. To be sure, I expect that Vista will slowly but surely sink into history and eventually be labeled Windows ME MKII (which is a bit of a shame because Vista with SP1 installed is a very good OS … but those early adopters who got burned will be the ones with the final say).

But given that Microsoft will once again have an OS that they can feel proud of, and that users won’t hate or dismiss out of hand, does this mean that the easy ride that the Mac OS and Linux distros have had over the past few years is over?

Apple, maybe … Linux, probably not.

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