The PC World Challenge: 72 Hours of Windows 7!
I phrase that last paragraph as I do, because it relates to my ultimate point. As it stands, Windows 7 is not a new operating system. It's SP2. Rightly, it's what Vista should have been, but I'm willing to compromise on this just existing as a significant, service-pack-worthy upgrade to the core Vista OS. A mainstay of the new experiences you will actually encounter are cosmetic in design or function: the new desktop functions are pretty, Windows gadgets are an exploded version of the Vista sidebar, Homegroup is just a rebranded way to set up network sharing, the Taskbar uses icons instead of icons and words, et cetera.
Truly novel innovations: an extensive Firewall system, a brand-new Backup and Restore tool that would actually keep me from buying an off-the-shelf solution, PC Safeguard... these are all neat applications. At its core, I really like the direction Microsoft has gone with Windows 7. There's no question in my mind about that.
But as a paying customer, I have to ask myself: when this OS hits the market, is there enough packed in there to warrant its $125 price (or thereabouts)? From XP to Vista, I definitely pulled the trigger and didn't look back. I don't believe that, at this stage in the game, the pretty functionality and intriguing applications are worth the eventual cost. I can mimic a lot of Windows 7's new functionality with common freeware applications. And while the graphics are pretty, I'm not about to shell out a ton of cash just so I can shift around my desktop windows and giggle.
(To be fair, the new graphical elements like full Window transparency just by hovering your mouse over "Show Desktop" make up some awesome features.)
Had Microsoft the gall, it would release Windows 7 as a free upgrade for Windows Vista users. It's not going to, nor can I see the software giant doing anything but slapping a standard pricing model on this "brand-new" OS. It'll be curious to see what this does to Vista support, given the inherent similarity between the two platforms. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft officially killed Vista development and made Windows 7 its default, go-to operating system. Sounds crazy? Eh. So is the hype around this operating system.
As for me? I think I'll go back to Vista for now...