Last month I wrote about how Microsoft, despite being attacked on all fronts by both Apple and Google, is on a bit of a roll: announcing major new products (Windows 7, Office 2010) to some acclaim, fighting Google on both search and web apps, and frightening Apple with the success of its latest TV ad campaign. Macworld isn’t accustomed to bigging up Microsoft – except in regards to its excellent Office 2008 suite – so it comes as quite a relief that the boys from Redmond have scored a blunder on a scale that registers high on the Mac user’s laughter scale.
After a real shocker of a launch for its current operating system Windows Vista, from which it never recovered, Microsoft has fast-tracked its successor. Windows 7 is really just a major update on Vista (Windows Vista 2.0) and might have been released as such if Vista’s name wasn’t so damned that no amount of love and attention could get people to go within a Bluetooth’s range of it.
In fact Vista isn’t as bad as its appalling reputation but the damage is done. ‘Not as bad as Windows ME’ isn’t going to save Vista now.
So Microsoft is rolling out Windows 7 as a standalone new OS release. Its name is deliberately boring to further distance it from the silly Vista tag. (Yes, Jaguar, Tiger, Leopard, et al are also rather silly but at least consistent and lovable.)
Microsoft has released Windows 7 as a public beta and, rather surprisingly, user reaction has been largely positive. This time it looks like the vast army of Windows XP users might really make the leap to a new version.
So things are looking good for Microsoft, which can put the Vista debacle behind it and move on. But here comes the blunder. In order to show how these nice people can upgrade to lovely Windows 7 Microsoft created a chart showing what various different users need to do. Here’s the chart – take a look. Take another look. Now rub your eyes, take a deep breath, and look again. Stop laughing, it’s not fair – and for Windows users it’s certainly not funny, either. Yes, really, this is a chart that’s intended to help people upgrade to the next version of Windows.
Microsoft dreamt up the chart to show how easy it is to upgrade while avoiding a painful ‘clean install’. To save you the bother of counting, the chart consists of a 66-cell matrix that details what XP and Vista users face when upgrading to Microsoft’s next operating system.
Unfortunately for Windows-users only 14 of the cells indicate an ‘in-place’ upgrade – one that retains all data and applications and simply swaps out the OS. For example, the popular Vista Home Premium (OK, not exactly popular but most common) can be upgraded in-place only to Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Ultimate.
The remaining 52 cells show where users will have to do a ‘custom’ install, also often referred to as a ‘clean’ install. For this you have to back up data and settings, install Windows 7, then restore the data and re-install all applications.
Even noted Windows blogger and author Ed Bott had to crack a smile: “Someone at Microsoft is secretly working for Apple”, he wrote.
Because Vista was such a disaster most customers considering an upgrade to Windows 7 will be running Windows XP, and so will need to do a nasty custom install.
In his ‘Secret Diary of Steve Jobs’ blog’ ‘Fake Steve Jobs’ (Dan Lyons, the technology columnist for Newsweek) wrote of the chart: “Green boxes represent upgrades that will be painful but won’t kill you. Blue boxes represent upgrades that will kill you.”
There have been many spoofs of the Windows 7 Upgrade Chart, and I’ve knocked up a quick one here to show how we can update to the next version of OS X – Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is releasing on Friday 28th August, and costing a mere $29 (£25 is the confirmed price via the Apple Store). Windows 7 prices start at £79 for Home Premium, £189 for Professional, and £199 for Ultimate. With Microsoft you have to pay for your pain.
Upgrading Mac OS X is somewhat more straightforward than the process for upgrading Windows
Microsoft’s stated a 22 October launch for Windows 7.
It looks like it might be several days or weeks later before many Windows users will actually have worked out how to upgrade their PCs.