You’ve got to give those folks at Microsoft Corp. credit for one thing: They learn from their mistakes. After coming up with a consumer flop for Windows Vista — it’s so bad that Microsoft was compelled to continue offering its previous version, Windows XP, long after it was due to be taken off the market — Microsoft has been busy preparing its next Windows incarnation. And this time, Microsoft vows, it’s going to get things right.
Here are some of the enhancements and new features you can look forward to:
Higher system requirements: Many users of older computers (those more than six months old) had problems running Vista when they upgraded from XP, as it was sluggish at best. But Windows 7 won’t have that problem — it simply will refuse to install on any computer with less than 4 gigabytes of RAM and a processor speed of less than 7 gigahertz.
Peripheral compatibility: Early adopters of Vista had problems with computer peripherals such as scanners, external drives, printers and even digital cameras, because their drivers (the software that ties the external hardware to the operating system) weren’t compatible with Vista. Microsoft says it will solve that problem by encouraging manufacturers to develop new hardware.
A more uniform experience: A growing number of users have been using Firefox, Safari and Opera to access the Internet rather than using Internet Explorer, which is part of Windows. Microsoft fears that this abundance of browser alternatives has become confusing to users. So whenever any of those browsers are installed, Windows will automatically run them using the Internet Explorer rendering engine, which determines how web pages are displayed.
More intense “Do you really want to do that?” pop-ups: One of the features of Vista has been its use of warnings when a user wanted to make changes to the system, such as changing a filename or adjusting the video configuration. The warnings aren’t having the desired effect, Microsoft officials say, because users tend to click through the warnings without paying attention. In Windows 7, the warnings will use a capcha system — having users type in hard-to-read text as is done on some web sites — in order to force users to slow down and think about the changes they’re making.
Better security: In order to make sure Windows 7 machines are secure, Microsoft is instituting two changes. First, users will no longer be given the option to not install automatic updates. Second, all Internet use will be directed through Microsoft servers, which will filter out all viruses, security threats and software products that conflict with the Microsoft user experience.
Longer boot times: Many office workers have complained that when they start up their computers, they barely have time to walk across the street and get a cup of coffee before the computer is ready to run. Microsoft is fixing that problem with what it calls MicroBreakfast Express, a longer boot-up time that will give users time to get a donut and orange juice with their coffee.
A new slogan: The company’s new slogan and advertising theme will complement its efforts to give users a more consistent experience: “Do it our way.”
Automatic reminders: To make sure that users can better appreciate Microsoft’s intentions, it has developed a system that will pop up windows whenever the computer is turned on to provide users with important information. Every April 1, for example, the pop-up window will say, “April Fool!”
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