In his post today (January 13, 2009), Can Microsoft Make Windows for a Small World?, Saul Hansell of the New York Times thinks that the "biggest question facing Windows 7 is whether Microsoft can really think small."
Now, for those of you old enough to remember Cheech and Chong, that's not what he meant.
"When designing Windows Vista, Microsoft put a lot of effort into taking advantage of sophisticated computer hardware, with fancy graphics on the surface and lots of new processing tricks inside. Microsoft says this positioned the operating system for the future, despite the complaining of many users who grumble that Vista has bogged down their computers with unneeded frills and incompatibilities.
"While there is some more high-powered glitz coming in Windows 7, the real challenge for Microsoft isn’t the latest multicore superchip, but making the operating system work well, and affordably, on stripped-down PCs, netbooks and other small devices."
I've seen several posts from people who have installed the latest Windows 7 beta successfully on small netbooks and older laptops. I have it running quite smoothly on everything from a Toshiba Portege M200 with a 1.5GHz Pentium M to a low-end HP Slimline with an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (running at 2 GHz) with 1 GB of SDRAM. And I've seen that several reports (such as this one from last fall on windowsfordevices.com) that "the Asus Eee PC 1000H "handles the new operating system pretty well," and writes that Sinofsky's characterization of Windows 7's memory consumption was "right on the money."
Thanks to the work we've done since the release Windows Vista (particularly for SP1), we have an OS that supports a wide variety of devices and applications. As noted on CNET News today, Richard Francis spoke at a press demo session of the Windows 7 beta and said that…
"… companies are "encouraged" to upgrade to Windows Vista after predecessor XP, instead of waiting for Windows 7 to be released.
"Francis noted that the device compatibility issues which plagued Vista are not expected to be an issue with Windows 7. "When Vista came out, there were only 22,000 compatible devices with the right drivers. Now there are 78,000, so there is better support from the ecosystem," he said.
"On current XP users considering paying for extended support as mainstream support reaches its April 2009 deadline, Francis said it is "too soon to say" how many will opt for that, but added that "there is no leading indicator for now that they will do so."
On one machine which had Windows XP installed (the aforementioned older Toshiba Tablet PC), I did a clean install of Windows 7 after backing up all my files: the OS installed without a hitch. The Slimline which came with Windows Vista Home Premium, and again I elected for a clean install on a dual boot system for Windows 7. This allowed me to easily keep Windows Vista at hand if I ran into any incompatibilities (which I haven't) and access all my files without having to execute a forced back up. (All files are already archived.)
What I expect to find is that it will be easy to migrate to a single new operating system at home and at work, one that that runs virtually all of our legacy computers at home and all of our software.
Today I use Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines at home and at work, side by side. Since updating our PCs to Windows Vista SP1, I've had a much more stable experience than I have with my trusty old Windows XP SP3 system that runs my home entertainment rig ('though I'll be upgrading that finally to Windows Vista as my ProTools upgrade supports the OS).
Even our old Pentium M notebooks -- which by some accounts are less powerful and capable than some of the netbooks we're seeing come out today – run quite nicely with Windows 7.
And one more thing: of the "three sorts of screens in people’s lives — computers, phones and televisions" mentioned in the article, two of these screens are run my Windows Vista and now Windows 7 at hour home (PC and TV). Two out of three ain't bad, and the experience on my Windows Mobile phone is getting better: with a nod to an infamous Monty Python line, it's still kicking but IMHO has some catching up to do with respect to the advancements we've seen on Windows 7.