Microsoft seems to be racing to get Windows 7 into the market, and it should. I've been running the test version of Windows 7 for about a week, and I can vouch that it lives up to the early, buoyant reviews. The system seems solid and adds useful features.
It also spotlights Vista's failings.
Most of Window 7's new features deal with the user interface. They make Windows easier to use and more efficient. The software, for example, makes it quick and easy to find and "peek" at a specific window among the sometimes dozens that I'll have open at a time. That "Aero Peek" is a big hit with me and other testers.
My focus has been on Windows Media Center. I've loaded my first copy of Windows 7 on a new computer I built as a home theater PC. It's our new "roll-your-own TiVo." And the new Media Center has rocked. It's happily recording TV shows, playing Internet videos and otherwise serving comfortably as a center of family room entertainment.
The only glitch came in playing a DVD the other night through Media Center. But the PC was also recording two HD shows at the same time, and the trio may have overwhelmed the hardware. I'll be testing further.
More than testing, I loaded Windows 7 on the media PC for a specific need. The new Media Center version finally supports over-the-air digital broadcasts. Vista's Media Center did not recognize subchannels that come with digital broadcasts. It didn't, for example, see three extra channels broadcast by our local PBS station.
As a family trying to live without cable or satellite TV, losing broadcast channels was a deal killer.
Now my complaint: Why can't Microsoft add many of these changes to Vista? Maybe it's pride, not wanting to admit the failure that is Vista. More likely it's greed.
Aero Peek seems like something that's skin deep in Windows, not a core change. And Microsoft did add digital subchannels in a Vista update. But that update only went to PC makers and not to current Vista owners.
Windows 7 looks like a potentially game-changing upgrade for Microsoft's developers. But the continued neglect shown to Vista reinforces how badly Microsoft fumbled that version.