Microsoft Launches a Revolution, Apple Launches a Mouse

I really was anticipating a battle royal between Microsoft and Apple and thought both companies would come to the mat with their best stuff. It felt like Apple was so focused on maintaining high margins last quarter that it gave up a huge chance to grow share, and its stealth launch of a couple of PCs and a multitouch mouse just seemed lame next to the massive rollout of Windows boxes.

Seriously, competing with a touchscreen product with a multitouch mouse is sort of like GM competing with Ford’s antilock brake system with a vibrating brick you glue to the break pedal. If Microsoft had done this instead of Apple, Mac fans would be rolling in the aisles. They don’t seem to be finding this that funny.

I did get some mail from Apple fans pointing out the similarity between the new hardware, software and experience to an Apple from folks who evidently didn’t quite grasp that this similarity comes at around 50 percent of the cost. They also seemed not to get that touch, like the iPhone does touch, is done on the screen — not on a touchpad or mouse.

It amazes me how Apple fans seem to focus like a laser on who copies whom, particularly with the patent infringement litigation popping up all around Apple. It seems incredibly hypocritical to me, especially given how Apple started.

I’ll share my observations on the Windows 7 launch and some of the things I got from several of the customers who were either trying out or deploying the product — yes, one enterprise had actually deployed Windows 7 on 2,300 machines.I’ll close with my product of the week, which kind of has to be Windows 7.

Windows 7 Surprise 1: IT Loves Windows 7

For launches, Microsoft is at a severe disadvantage because it believes strongly in public beta tests, which make it very difficult to create the same kind of shock and awe Apple gets from surprising its audience with new and different things.

However, that surprise comes at a cost, which I think is directly related to how buggy the most recent releases of OS X and the iPhone were. Windows 7 came out relatively clean, and part of the reason people pay more for Apple is the perception that Apple provides higher quality.

That perception currently seems out of kilter with reality. One of the surprises was just how well the corporate trials were going. BothDel Monte and Baker Tilly (an accounting and business process firm that deployed Windows 7 on 2,300 machines) indicated improved moral and employee retention advantages. Baker Tilly added that it was saving US$200 a year on every desktop due to a combination of management improvement, stability, compatibility and energy savings.

This is the first time I’ve seen a large deployment done before the official launch, and the first time an early deployment that was used as a reference wasn’t cofunded by Microsoft. That’s right — according to Baker Tilly, Microsoft didn’t chip in at all. Dell did use this for training and discounted the services, but Microsoft didn’t buy this deployment; Baker Tilly did it for competitive advantage and migrated from XP.

Del Monte, on the other hand, was waiting for a series of updates and indicated Windows 7 had showcased some bad coding practices some of its vendors had been using. It was waiting for the vendors to correct their code before deploying and only had 65 machines in test. But Del Monte actually gushed about the product, and IT guys rarely gush about anything.

Overall, based on a recent ITIC survey, the sense is that corporations will likely move aggressively on this product — which for them means after only a year of testing, and some of that testing clearly started months ago. 2010 could turn out to be a big year. Windows 7 isn’t Vista as much as Apple might wish it were.

Surprise 2: Themes

On the night before the launch, Microsoft released a bunch of new themes for Windows 7. I’m a big fan of customization; I like my system to be uniquely mine, and having the ability to build my own theme is actually kind of cool. However, I kind of got hooked on the Infiniti theme, because it is based on a prototype car that I really hope Infiniti builds — I want it in the worst possible way.

Additional themes are based on motorcycles, other hot cars, video games and locations. I imagine there will be many more as content owners use this to promote TV shows, books, movies, and other video games.

Surprise 3: Media Center on Steroids

Microsoft really bulked up the media center, and the best part is the huge increase in Internet TV stations. This really makes the product work as a unique set-top box, even if you never use the tuner function. This is important, because even though the tuners are vastly improved — those of us that build systems can now get get cable-card enabled tuners — the pain-in-the-butt cable card would remain daunting for most.

I have eight cable cards, and the cost and pain of having them installed just doesn’t seem worth it. I will say this: It’s clear that if you’re a FIOS customer, the result could be really cool, because FIOS allows copy everywhere, which means ultimate portability for most content (remote streaming, laptop caching, multi-room viewing etc.). Overall, Media Center suddenly looks more interesting (and there is evidently more coming).

Surprise 4: Massive Multi-Room Streaming

Microsoft showcased streaming videos and pictures to around 11 TVs connected to set-top boxes, with built-in media extenders. Connected to an Xbox and one digital picture frame from one mainstream laptop, it wasn’t even performance constrained. You could’ve still worked on the box.

Granted, this is more of a technology showcase, and I doubt anyone would really do this — but for those who want to build a whole-house video and audio distribution system, Windows 7 could actually be the hub.

Seamless Networking

While this wasn’t new or surprising to those of us who have been using Windows 7, I want to point this out as my co-favorite feature. Historically, Windows users, and I’m no exception, have had nightmares making their networked stuff visible. It seemed like things were there one day and gone the next. In addition, you had to copy stuff from machine to machine, often creating redundant copies or overwriting things you didn’t want to lose.

Home Group coupled with Libraries is a godsend. Everything is always visible, and if you copy something to a library, it is instantly visible on all Home Group enabled machines. It’s like Active Directory without the administrative overhead.

Suspend Works

My other co-favorite thing is that Suspend works, though it is interesting to note that boot is vastly faster. Lenovo said it was doing full boots of Windows 7 on next-generation SSD drives in less than 10 seconds, which is blindingly fast. However, I have two Atom/Ion desktop machines, and these things were not only incredibly cheap (under $500 with SSD drives) but they go to sleep and wake up in about two seconds.

Being able to walk up to a completely blacked-out machine and move the mouse to get it going has been something I’ve always hoped to do but rarely have been able to accomplish.

Product of the Week: Windows 7

Product of the Week

Seven has always been one of my two lucky numbers, and I have truly enjoyed working on this product since January. While Microsoft had to comp me an MSDN subscription so I could broadly test the product on a number of machines, I also bought several copies myself just so I could give it away as a gift.

My hope is that this product represents a new Microsoft that can once again focus on trying to build amazing desktop products and giving Apple fans heartburn.

Windows 7 desktop

Aero Peek lets you peer straight to the Windows 7 desktop, revealing all your hidden icons and gadgets.
(click image to enlarge)

Based on the mail I’m getting, I think that heartburn must be really hurting at the moment, because so many seem to be desperately trying to say Apple did this or that first. What they seem to forget is that Apple’s success is often not tied to being first but being the first to do it right — and that was once Microsoft’s strength as well. It looks like it may be its strength again.

From the Beta testers and analysts I’ve spoken with and know to the enterprise clients that have deployed and tested this product and love it, Windows 7 has been a breath of fresh air in a market that desperately needs it.

As a result, I can think of no better candidate for product of the Week than Windows 7. Nice job, people. Now, if we can just get Microsoft to copy the way Apple presents a product…

Maybe by Windows 8.

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.


  • …is that all of the ‘wonderfulness’ in Microsoft’s years of work on Windows 7 is that it is entirely offset by Apple simply releasing a new Mouse?

    Unfortunately for Microsoft, that actually sounds about right.

    Feel free to call me when Microsoft actually releases a compelling new product. While Win7 is clearly better than Vista, there’s not any particular urgency IMO to run out and buy a copy: I can easily ignore the shills and wait until the my 4-5 year PC upgrade cycle rolls around for new hardware and get the ‘whatever’ then.


  • So Microsoft releases Vista SP2 and Uncle Fester’s handpuppet here jizzes all over himself. It is an open secret that Enderle is on MIcrosoft’s payola. No credible CIO is going to take or pay for this idiot’s advice. Among the Gartner consulting folks, Enderle is a running joke (was at a Gartner event the other day). Something about his dog being his associate consultant at the Enderle Group.

  • Rob,

    As the "product of the week" goes, its a natural outcome that Win7 will be it this week. For you to compare it to what apple did this week is a little disingenuous. As you and other tech watchers well know, each have their own cadence for releases and Apple’s yearly or bi-yearly is matched by Msft’s half-a decadely (ok – my word): We all know who has the mojo and we also all know who gets more biased kudos. So nothing new in your article – just my humble opinion. your point about Win7 being a good, solid OS is well echoed all over, so you didn’t need to bash a mouse over it. If you decided to do that, you could’ve talked about the LED screens and other goodies as well, so your bias is showing here.

    Cheers – Win & Apple user.

  • Have you blacked out for the past year? I mean, c’mon! Apple released Leopard two years ago (Win7 is hopefully about that grade) and released Snow Leopard just recently. If anything Win7 is competing with SL not a mouse! Apple refreshed every machine in it’s line up this year. You just looked at a week worth of time and reviewing that? Nice! Do you have an editor at all?

    I sure hope Win7 is as awesome as they claim it is, since MacOSX and Linux will just keep leaping forward. Bring on the windows that actually works for once! Competition is always good for consumers.

    PS. That aero ‘feature’ is what’s truly laughable.

  • apple always had benefited from a technologically ignorant audience which could be broken down into two types of users :

    1-the biased fervid fan boy who will die twice before he criticizes anything that Apple makes or doesn’t make.

    2-the technology illiterate, who thinks that the first mp3 player is no doubt the iPod, that there is no other way anyone can transfer any music to a portable device without using the expensive, buggy yet user non friendly iTunes and that macs have actually faster hardware than PCs.

    ill consider a mac when it can give me anything a PC can plus at least one unique feature that PCs cant offer, and so far, the only thing Macs are offering is a much higher price tag and pathetic viral commercials which im not interested in.

  • Windows 7 just fixes the problems that Vista had and a few new features. Since most people still use XP and switching over won’t be easy. Most people will buy 7 if they have Vista or wait until they need a new PC. W7 is a non-event.

    I’ve tried the new Apple mouse. It is better in every way from a regular mouse. The touch scrolling works great. Clicking has a solid feel to it that is natural. While it won’t change the world of computing, it is a solid advancement of a product that already worked well.

    Just another way to look at it. I use both Mac and PC. Don’t really have a bias one way or the other but would like reports to do the same.

  • This article shows your extreme bias against Apple and how much of a tool you are. Apple comes out with new 21.5" and 27" iMacs, [the 27" with the option for an i7 processor that has hyperthreading that allows to to perform as if it has 8 cores] updates to the Mac Mini, updated Macbook and you dismiss all that and have to focus your comments about Apple on the Magic Mouse. Wow. You’re a complete tool and this will be the last time I read Tech News World. I prefer objective news stories, not utterly biased crap like this.

  • Funny column. Especially the first line. As if Microsoft and Apple are engaged in a neck-and-neck race, with Windows 7 beating Apple’s new mouse. If Apple and Microsoft appear neck-and-neck, it’s just an illusion: Apple lapped Microsoft a couple of years ago.

    If–IF–Windows 7 is now playing in the same ballpark as MacOS, then it’s two years late; that’s when Leopard, the MacOS that Windows 7 is competing with, was introduced. (BTW, Apple introduced its latest OS, Snow Leopard, earlier this year. So by my reckoning, Windows 7 is one OS version behind.)

    Without exception, every person I know who uses Windows is running XP, an eight-year-old operating system. So where’s the competition? Truth is, even with it’s miniscule market share, Apple has driven the personal computer biz for decades. Without MacOS, Windows wouldn’t look like Windows. Who knows, it might even still be a command-line OS.

    I sincerely hope Windows 7 is as good as the hype. Apple could use the competition. And competition is good for computer users everywhere.

  • Good roundup of Windows 7. I would have expected nothing less. If MSFT does not get excellent reviews for its "second" attempt, it is truly armageddon for the IT world, especially enterprise. I AM glad you refrained from making direct references to Vista because the latter should NOT have been a benchmark like some other reviews have attempted to do so. However I AM AM used as to why you opined that the Apple mouse "looks almost laughable". I fail to understand why this product is "laughable". Did you get a chance to use it ? How about a review, like you did for Windows 7. Thanks.

  • Are you forgetting about the Snow Leopard Release ? Are you trying to compare a software release with hardware release ? As far as I remember you can’t compare a cow with a chicken…. or maybe I’m wrong… who knows. Anyway I really hope that Windows 7 will meet the quality and coolness that Microsoft is buzzing about, not for their profit margins not for the fame, but for the sake of users who certainly are deserving better things that the crap they got in the last decade.

  • Apple released improved hardware, Microsoft released improved software. Apple announced record earnings, Microsoft announced record losses. Maybe there is just more money in hardware these days.

  • Talk about flame-bait. A stealth launch of a couple of Apple PCs? New Mouse vs Massive Rollout of Windows Boxes? Listen, Apple’s fall lineup is evolutionary because it already has good products. Windows 7 is revolutionary because that’s what it took to fix Vista. Kudos Microsoft for getting it right this time. I even plan on buying a copy of Win7 to install on my shiny new iMac just as soon as I get it. Have fun eating flame for that intro Rob.

  • Got their groove back, lol. Microsoft has recently implemented basic measures that have been offered by several linux distributions and apple for years. Microsoft isn’t very innovative, they simple copy ideas from apple and features from linix.

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