October 22, 2009, 11:37 AM — Whether Windows 7 lives up to expectations will remain a heated debate in the months to come. Early looks show promise, but when it comes to engineering mass disappointment, few can do it to the degree that Microsoft can and has in iterations past. Remember how discouraging Windows Vista was? After five years of revolutionary promises, Microsoft dumped the honking mess on the world in fall 2007, complete with convoluted user interfaces, annoying security nags, and steep hardware requirements that forced needless PC upgrades -- all wrapped up in a variety of flavors whose differences seemed unnecessarily confusing.
At the time, we at InfoWorld kept hearing quiet grumblings from IT about the new Windows, but the prevailing attitude about Vista trended toward resignation. In a nutshell, we kept hearing users say, "After all, Microsoft controls Windows and we have no choice but to accept what it delivers." Worse, most of the major analyst firms fawned over the fledgling Vista, leaving many to second-guess their doubts.
[ Relive the furor over Windows Vista and the passion behind the "Save XP" campaign. | Get the full scoop on the new Windows 7 with InfoWorld's "Windows 7: The essential guide" compendium and the 21-page "Windows 7 Deep Dive" PDF report. ]
Microsoft, of course, denied loudly that there was anything wrong, with its execs and PR minions claiming repeatedly that Vista was the result of world-beating engineering and extensive customer research, with that special soul-hocking that usually only (ironically, Mac-using) ad agencies can do with a straight face. (To add insult to injury, Microsoft is about to launch an ad campaign claiming that Windows 7 is not only based on listening to its customers -- that's why Microsoft made the "we fixed Vista" changes -- but also that Windows 7 was designed by its customers, which I suppose is where the new taskbar and Aero Peek functions came from, not the Mac OS X Dock and Exposé app they suspiciously mimic. Hey, Microsoft fooled the New York Times about this, so maybe it thinks it can fool you, too.)