Windows 7 Beta: The 5 Most Important Things Microsoft Did Right

Paying attention to the little things made all the difference

Today marks the end of the public beta of Windows 7, introduced early in 2009 with even earlier bits available to attendees at PDC 2008. As beta's go I think most would say the Windows 7 beta was an overwhelming success. Lets look at the things Microsoft did right with the Windows 7 beta.

  1. Microsoft did what they said they'd do. The Windows 7 beta arrived on time in January when Microsoft said they would deliver it. We're all too accustomed to software ship date delay after delay, and it was both refreshing and a confidence builder that Microsoft did what they said they'd do, when they said they'd do it.

2. Exceeded expectations. Nobody expected Windows 7 to be the stable beta version that it was. I think we were all a little surprised. I've used it on my laptop as my fulltime OS with relatively few issues, certainly nothing that prevented me from using Windows 7 productively. Performance of Windows 7 was especially impressive, including start up, sleep and shutdown times. Maybe expectations for Windows 7 were low because of Vista, but mine where high for me to believe Windows 7 could not only overcome the problems of Vista, but also really succeed as the next Microsoft desktop OS.

3. Less is more. You've heard me say that phrase in past blog posts and I really believe in most cases that it's true. Do the things you do really well, not just a lot of things average or poorly. Windows 7 cleaned up a lot of the kitchen sink design of Vista, making it still a highly functional and very easy to use experience. That's resulted in a much better user experience, and in some cases, improved performance.

4. Thanks for listening and changing. Often times betas are just bugfest experiences, a final chance for the vendor expose and deal with bugs preventing the product from shipping. Not too often are customer requests made during a beta implemented in the same release. For example, users shouted loud and clear they didn't want UAC defaults in a less secure way. Microsoft exposed why they thought the change made sense but then back tracked, not only going back to users' preference but also addressing a more fundamental design issue before the product shipped.

5. It's the little things that count. Many of Windows 7's UI changes were made thanks to the data collected through user experience program. How many windows does the average user open? What actions are commonly done on the desktop? Do we really need icons taking up space in the interface just to make them more discoverable for first time use? Those types of questions led to how the new taskbar was designed, pinning applications to the taskbar in user defined order, speed menus dropping down from icons on the taskbar, expanding windows vertically and side-by-side, easier management for multiple displays and projectors, the Screen Resolution option moving up to the top level right-click desktop menu, and putting the hide/show desktop feature in the lower right hand column rather than as a icon in the quick launch bar. Windows 7 is a much better product because of these small but very important improvements.

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