Finally, we arrived at the Lynnwood Convention Center. How lucky, a parking spot right in front…. I have been to Microsoft events before. They are usually well attended affairs with lots of glitz and showmanship. This looked different. Instead of 1000 end users crowding in to see what’s new, it was about 350 IT professionals looking for ways to give their businesses a shot in the arm.
Having missed my chance for any breakfast, I was hoping Microsoft would have a little treat for us. Well, they had coffee, but no carbohydrate sponges to throw down first. We immediately began grumbling to ourselves about why one of the richest companies in the world can’t afford a few bagels or doughnuts for its loyal customers who drove for 3 hours to make an event. But, by the end of the day my attitude would be adjusted.
OK, about the Windows 7 stuff. I am one of those folks who skipped Vista and still run Windows XP. I watched my friends and clients struggle with Vista and decided I’d stick with what was working for me. I also had some specific programs that were critical to my business, which either did not have a Vista driver, or would not run under Vista without issues, so I stayed on the sidelines. Today, I was going to give Microsoft a chance to convince me about Windows 7.
As we get in line for our badges, a nice lady hands us a Reusable Cloth Grocery bag with some Windows Lit and pen inside. During the first half of the day, Microsoft and AMD representatives took turns explaining features and benefits of their products. Windows 7 starts to make a good argument for why you should adopt this OS. Key points include:
- Lower System Requirements: Windows 7 is the first new OS introduction by Microsoft that has lower system requirements than the previous OS. That’s a good start.
- Better User Account Management: More secure, and it doesn’t get in your way as much.
- Improved Search: One problem with previous Windows Operating Systems is that if you have a lot of programs installed, it is sometimes hard to find them. Or find a document. Windows Search is greatly improved, and will quickly help you find what you are looking for.
- Problem Steps Recorder: If you are working on your computer and get an error message, this handy feature lets you record your actions, and allows you to send it as a file to your IT support person. They can see exactly what step you took to create the error and see the actual error message, facilitating problem solving.
- DirectAccess: Automatically creates a secure connection in the background to your corporate network without having to use VPN. A nice enhancement for those who work on the road.
- Shake: This is my favorite feature. Not new to iPhone users, but cool all the same. If you happen to have a cluttered desktop with lots of open windows, just grab the title bar of the program you want to stay open and shake it back and forth. All the other applications instantly minimize! Shake again and they pop back open. Neat-O.
- Snap: Is a quick way to compare two documents by dragging each one to either the left or right edge of the screen. They will automatically each fill half of the screen. Snap to the top edge and it maximizes that window to fill the whole screen. Drag an edge of a window to the bottom edge and it will maximize the window only in the vertical direction.
- Aero Peek: Is like X-Ray Vision. Hover over a small bar in the lower right corner of the screen and you can see through open windows right down to your desktop. Click on the bar and it minimizes the windows. Click again to open them.
- BitLocker: This is a way to encrypt your hard drives or even thumb drives to keep data secure no matter where it is.
- Location Aware Printing: If you work at clients’ homes or businesses, and connect to their printer to print, the next time you connect to that network, Windows 7 will remember that and automatically make that printer your default printer.
- Virtualization: This is huge. This allows you to run your computer in XP Mode. This helps me overcome one of my major objections to upgrading my OS. If you have a legacy program that is essential to your daily life and it only runs on XP, you can keep that functionality. You have to do a little work to get this set up. You must change a setting in the BIOS and also download the XP Mode software from Microsoft. To learn how to do this, you can watch screen casts from our presenter Rob at his blog site: http://ts2blogs.com/blogs/rwagg/archive/2009/05/21/so-you-want-to-get-started-with-hyper-v-start-here-in-summary.aspx
- Grab Bag: Too many features to mention them all, but other notables include support for Touch, longer battery life for laptops, Libraries, HomeGroup, Internet TV and more. To learn more check out Microsofts Windows 7 overview at : http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/what-is-windows-7.aspx
Please note: Not all features are available in all versions of Windows 7. Here are the basic differences:
For a more complete list visit: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/compare/versions.aspx
I am finally starting to warm up to Windows 7. OK, time for a lunch break. We waddle out into the lobby to find nice little Cordura lunch boxes waiting for us with your choice of either Veggie or Roast Beef meals inside. Our first real swag! Not bad. However, my pleasure is somewhat dampened when I discover that there are only a few small tables to stand at for eating, and they are all taken. We resort to using the flat top of the trash can for our table. Hrrumph.
The second half of the presentation covered a lot of Server R2-D2 stuff that went over my head. Cluster this blah, blah,blah, Virtualization that, blah, blah, blah. Not sure what is going on with the Microsoft / Intel relationship these days, but they must be strained. Throughout the day they were referred to as the “I” guys?
Swag Profile Continues to Improve
I managed to outreach the pasty, white faced IT geek sitting next to me, to snag a rolled up T-shirt that went hurtling through the air from the stage. My formerly athletic, surgically repaired right arm was no match for that keyboard pounding micro nerd. I turned in my survey and got another T-Shirt. Matching night shirts for my 8 year old twins. Things were looking up.
When you register for this event, you get the right to purchase a special kit valued at $417.99 for only $189.00. The kit contains an ASUS Motherboard, an AMD Athlon II 620 Quad Core processor and a 64 bit copy of Windows 7 Ultimate. I am waiting in line to get my kit when they are giving away raffle items. First a mouse, to some guy, then one of my buddies snags another motherboard! Next I hear my name for another motherboard! Then my other buddy pulls in another copy of Windows 7 Ultimate! We are giddy with excitement. For our $189.00 we all came away with over $550.00 worth of merchandise!
In recap, a day that had a rather inauspicious beginning, ended with a bang. While Window 7 is not a perfect OS, I think Microsoft has listened and gotten it mostly right. They have finally nudged me from my death grip on XP. Thanks Microsoft, but please, next time, have some bagels and a few more tables will ya? After all, you are Microsoft.