Windows 7 - The Dilemma XP Users Will Face

After posting this morning about Windows XP users being the ultimate deciders if Windows 7 wins or not, I saw a bevy of other articles and posts saying similar things. With about 22% of the audience having converted to Vista, Microsoft has to win over the XP crowd and get them motivated enough to upgrade.

OK, we all see the obvious ... the XP crowd holds Windows 7's destiny in their hands, but I think the question comes down to the same tradeoffs we always have with major operating system software upgrades. Is the user's experience better and was it worth the price, in dollars, learning and productivity vs. the benefits gained?

There's no getting around it: XP users will have to go through the process of learning a new version of Windows. Vista introduced a lot of change, putting the learning curve and productivity at issue. Windows XP users will still have to deal with a number of changes, re-learning where things are, and learning new features. 

Who moved my cheese? Things are still in different places in Windows 7 than they are in Windows XP, and even Vista in many cases. My Computer, My Documents, Trash and all those desktop icons are no longer there. Printers? Well, they were on the Start Menu in Vista but Printers is on the Windows 7 Start menu. Run... is now found with a quick Windows-Key+R and isn't on the Start Menu. It's the digital equipment of reorganizing your kitchen... You'll open three drawers before you find something you previously knew right where it was.  

Vista Features Present: Improved or Not. UAC is still there. You now have better controls to make it less bothersome or not bother you at all, but it's still there. The Network and Sharing Center introduced in Vista are pretty much the same. Despite a drumbeat of complaints about ribbon menus, it looks like they are here to stay because now Paint has been infected with them. If you've used Vista, you'll recognize several things still present, though they may have changed, been relocated or improved. 

The Quest For Power. If Vista introduced the glassy Aero look, Windows 7 builds on that translucent effect even more so. That means faster graphics hardware than XP demands. Indexing engines, music sharing, DVD making... all that is of course demanding more hardware and disk. And Vista's (now Windows 7's) march to get us to use 64-bit Windows isn't going away either. Windows 7 has really focused on addressing the performance problems introduced in Vista but you know Windows 7 will still require more beef than most older XP generation hardware can muster. There's most likely a hardware upgrade in your future.

New and Improved. Windows 7's display settings have changed a lot. Microsoft probably spent five to 10 minutes during the 2008 PDC conference demo just showing us improvements in how Windows 7 manages display devices. Libraries in the file system are like tags on steroids; they let you organize things without moving around or duplicating the original files (or creating aliases.) Managing wireless devices seems less cluttered and confusing. There are lots of new doodads in Windows 7 to learn.

Help Windows Help You. You know all of those times you've had the option of participating in the Microsoft customer experience program? Well, that data's gone to good use. The Windows 7 design team looked at everything from how many applications and windows for each app the average user has open, to what's the installation experience like. That's resulted in much less in your face approach in Windows 7. With the changes made to the desktop, task bar and others improvements, Microsoft is betting those changes will improve your experience. That's what they're banking on from the data.

That's also why the emphasis on quicker boot times, a redesigned and easier to use Task Bar, the new Action Center, and many other improvements to the overall Windows Explorer desktop experience. Microsoft figured out that yes, we use e-mail and browser apps a lot, but the core desktop experience is where we really live, resulting in the improvements we've seen in Windows 7.

The Proof's In The User. Ah, the dilemma for XP users. Are Windows 7's changes, tangible and intangible, enough to entice Windows XP users to cross the line and upgrade? My gut says, except for the stalwarts, the answer is yes.

My justification? It's in the data ... the customer experience data. That data has guided the Windows 7 team and helped battle off scope creep, feature-itis, and the Vista kitchen sink mentality. But I'm tainted and biased. I've been using Vista since it came out. It's been a long time since I've used an XP machine very much. And I've lead customer experience departments for product companies, and I know the positive impact a well executed customer experience program can bring.

So now ... lets see what Windows XP users say.

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