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Why Microsoft's Windows 7 Won't Be Any Better than Vista


The company has worked on various iterations for 20 years -- and never gotten it right.

I'd like to say I'm excited about Microsoft's (MSFT) latest operating system, Windows 7, which is hitting stores at just about the time you're reading this. Windows 7 is supposed to be faster, more stable, and easier to use. The only problem is, I heard the same things about Windows Vista, which was released to positive reviews before the bugs crept up and reality set in.

Microsoft's army of engineers have been working on various iterations of Windows for over 20 years, spending tens of billions of dollars on research and development -- and they've never gotten it right.

Why should this time be any different? Is that really the team you want to bet on?

It's one thing for sophisticated web and magazine reviewers working in controlled environments to compliment Windows 7. The real-world full of regular people could have very different experiences.

There's a good reason Apple (AAPL) reported blowout earnings the other day. Apple makes fun, good-looking products that just get the hell out of your way and let you do your thing. They actually boost your productivity because you don't have to deal with viruses, freeze-ups, irritating security pop-ups, and the million other things that typically go wrong with Windows PCs.

In reality, Windows 7 could be all that we're looking for in an operating system -- maybe it just works. I mean, I've seen a dog ride a bike, and I've seen Detroit make a great car, so anything is possible.

But Microsoft still faces a major image problem. People don't trust their products, and it's going to be awfully hard to convince a public that was burned with Vista to upgrade to Windows 7 when the tried-and-true Mac alternative is there. Sure -- some programs are Windows-only. But that's a small minority that will impact only a small fraction of computer users. Fact is, 90% of what can be done on a PC can be done on a Mac -- only easier.

But wait, I'm just one of those snobby, know-it-all Mac people, right?

Wrong. I'm a bitter Windows person who's seen the error of my ways and wants to make the big switch. Two years ago, I bought something cheaper than a Mac but got less value because of lost productivity. I stupidly ignored the fact that I never met anyone who regretted buying a Mac, and my prior two decades of lousy experiences with Microsoft software.

So the stock versus stock comparison between Microsoft and Apple is pretty easy to make, at least for me. Apple wins out every time, simply because it cares enough about its customers to put them first.
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