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Don't Promise "Better" Unless You Mean It

I just read through Steve Ballmer's keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show, in which he promised that Windows 7 would have better performance, fewer alerts, and be more stable than previous versions. That would be the right focus, for sure. But I believe we heard the same things about Vista—and, among many other issues, the squiggly circle asking me to wait in Vista seems to appear about as often as the famous hourglass in Windows 3.1.

What's needed is not more marketing promises by a software publisher, but rather a realization on the part of the end-user community that upgrades need to be just that—upgrades, not sidegrades or downgrades. We need to insist on real value—not just in terms of glitter or fluff, but with truly new features that enhance our user experience and make our lives easier.

I realize that a word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation program can only do so much; Microsoft needs to realize that as well. Future versions need to stop dreaming up ways to seem different and new, instead using the upgrade cycle as a way of solidifying performance and value, along with connecting seamlessly to other technology—such as cell phones, web services, and maybe even Adobe/Macromedia products.

Oh, wait—Ballmer already suggested that the next operating system will work "in the cloud."

Here's what I recommend: Make sure that Windows 7 and Office 2012 work here on earth for the benefit of end users—not to please programmers, interface designers, or marketing mavens.

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