Entelligence is a column by technology strategist and author Michael Gartenberg, a man whose desire for a delicious cup of coffee and a quality New York bagel is dwarfed only by his passion for tech. In these articles, he'll explore where our industry is and where it's going -- on both micro and macro levels -- with the unique wit and insight only he can provide.
This was a big week for Microsoft, as Steve Ballmer took the stage in New York and formally introduced Windows 7 to the world. It was almost a little anti-climactic: the OS has been finished and shipped to OEMs for months, while developers and pretty much any enthusiast who wanted a copy has one by now. Still, this is the week that Microsoft takes the message and OS to the mass market and the PC holiday sales system formally kicks off. I've held back from writing about the OS for the most part, but here's seven things about Windows 7 -- three features that I think are over-hyped and four things that make 7 something worth purchasing, either as an upgrade or as part of a new PC.
Ready? Let's get the irrelevant stuff out of the way first.

Aero whatever: Whether it's Aero Glass, Aero Peek, Aero Shake or Aero whatever, it's gotten a lot of hype, but it's really just so much eye candy. After trying Aero Peek and Aero Shake I find I've never used them in any productivity setting. Sure, some people love gratuitous UI fluff but stuff like this is hardly worth shelling out money for.

Touch: First, you need a touch-enabled PC, which you probably don't have. Even then, the native touch features just aren't worth an upgrade on their own. TouchPack (which is cleverly branded as Surface apps) is nothing more than a tech demo. Give me a PC OS optimized for touch across the board and I'm all there, but this is just a gimmick.

Device Stage: Microsoft says this is "a new way to interact with your phone, camera, printer, or portable media player from the Windows desktop. Device Stage is new visual interface that makes it easy to find the things you want to do with your devices on your Windows 7 PC." I say, well, it doesn't do all that much. Perhaps in the future more devices will recognize the feature and help users do more advanced things, but for now Device Stage is more promise than delivery.

It might sound like I'm being negative but there's also four things in Windows 7 that I really like, and if you can make use of these features, they're certainly worth the price of the upgrade.

Performance and stability: Sure it seems like silly thing -- in fact high performance and relative stabilty should be table stakes for a modern OS. But the fact is that 7 is the best version of Windows Microsoft's ever produced. While Vista

Media Center is now best of breed for DVR and home theater applications.

was not nearly the disaster most folks thought it was, it doesn't matter -- too many folks are still using Windows XP. Windows XP is like the "Jason" or "Freddie" of operating systems. It refuses to die no matter how many times Microsoft has tried to kill it. Windows 7 in my experience is stable, performs well and is compatible with a range of devices and device drivers.

Windows Media Center: Windows Media Center has gone from being a pokey mess in Vista to something sleek, fast and powerful in Windows 7. With consumer-grade, user-installable cable card tuners available at last, MCE is now best of breed for DVR and home theater applications.

Home Group and remote access: Another winner. Home networking is a mess but Microsoft has made some nice efforts to tame the beast with Home Group. Setting up and configuring a home network has never been easier in Windows, and sharing media and content across the network to other Home Group PCs is just as simple. Even better, accessing your content like recorded TV shows from afar has never been easier on a PC. It's a must for anyone with a home network, multiple PCs who wants to do remote access simply and easily.

Eyefinity: Okay, this isn't a Windows 7 feature at all. It's an AMD feature that allows its latest line of consumer grade Radeon video cards to drive six monitors simultaneously.as one giant desktop of up to 268 megapixels. It offers a gaming and graphics experience that needs to be seen to be appreciated. And it works best on Windows 7.

Windows 7 is important and it's a big deal. Yes, under many circumstances it can be a hassle to get to, especially with no direct upgrades from Windows XP and many versions of Vista, but it's worth it. We've already seen the latest from Apple, and with the holiday season buying season officially on, it's going to be an interesting race with two strong and yet very different contenders.


Michael Gartenberg is vice president of strategy and analysis at Interpret, LLC. His weblog can be found at gartenblog.net, and he can be emailed at gartenberg AT gmail DOT com. Views expressed here are his own.

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