Windows 7 preview bodes well for buyers

Rumors are buzzing about Microsoft’s plans to roll out Windows 7 on Oct. 22, which is on time and ahead of the critical holiday buying season.

Rumors are buzzing about Microsoft’s plans to roll out Windows 7 on Oct. 22, which is on time and ahead of the critical holiday buying season.

Even more exciting are the serious rumors that Microsoft will offer a free upgrade coupon to buyers of Windows Vista computers if they purchase a computer this summer.

There hasn’t been an official announcement, but this makes sense; you don’t want consumers waiting to purchase a new computer for the entire summer, especially for the back-to-school season.

Consumers can download a preview version of Windows 7 from the Microsoft website now.

I recently installed it on a new Dell laptop and was impressed with the process.

With Windows XP, after installing the operating system I had to install a bunch of Dell drivers. But Windows 7 simply found and installed them all — except for the Dell fingerprint reader, which was the first thing I was going to disable anyway.

After the first boot, I was impressed with the operating system’s speed with 4GB of RAM. (I suspect nearly everyone will opt for the 64-bit version of Windows 7 because it gets over the 3.5 GB memory limit.)

On a home system, I was able to install eight gigs of RAM and found the OS speedy and lovely, as you would suspect.

I tested Windows 7 and XP on side-by-side laptops. The one with Windows 7 booted in 11 seconds; the same model laptop with XP booted in 22.

With a dedicated 256-meg video card, the index score of 3.9 shows the operating system is going to take a lot of video horsepower. The best bet is to invest heavily in a video card to get the most out of Windows 7 and its “Aero” interface.

The good news is video cards for desktops are fairly inexpensive; the bad news is video upgrades for laptops can be pricey.

Windows 7 will come in six editions when it goes on sale this fall.

The stripped-down “Starter” and “Home Basic” editions will come with very simple computers and will allow only the most basic operating-system tasks. (“Home Basic” won’t be sold in the U.S.)

Most consumers will get “Home Premium,” which has the most common features, including the Aero interface and DVD playback.

“Professional” will be the most common version for office users because it allows PCs to be added to business domains. It is similar to Windows Vista Business edition.

The final two versions are “Ultimate” for home users and “Enterprise” for business customers. They have everything, including the kitchen sink and disk encryption.

Prices have not been announced, but I would expect them to start around US$99 and continue up to about $249 for the Ultimate version upgrade.

I’d also expect some discounts and sales, especially for business customers, where Microsoft is eager to get rid of XP and the hulk of rotting Vista.

James Derk, tech columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, owns the computer service company CyberDads. Contact him at jim@cyberdads.com

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