Recap: Why Were Windows 7’s Reviews All So Positive?
(make sure you’ve read my Windows 7 article, before reading below)
I was writing an email reply to a tech writer who also hated Windows 7, and decided to recap on an interesting phenomenon here: why were all the Windows 7 reviews so positive, when you can show that so much of the experience is a step backward from Vista?
To my perception, there was a wide range of reasons for that, and they all happened to line up perfectly, creating a "perfect storm" scenario:
- To start, the Win7 beta was getting everyone stoked on the incredible stability and compatibility. It seemed that Win7 was on track to be the Windows that, FROM DAY 1, would be stable, compatible, and free of annoying issues – the Windows that would right all the wrongs. It seemed that Microsoft wasn’t CHANGING much from Vista, specifically to focus on making this perhaps the first cleaned-up, polished, “perfect version” of Windows… something everyone has starved for. And it was looking to become just that. (nevermind the interface issues I pointed out – stability and compatibility were stealing the show, along with this overwhelming sense that the entire soul of Windows 7 was to be a perfected, sparkling revamp of Vista.)
- Many tech people probably got burned by Vista… and, unfortunately, 2 factors make it hard to regain that trust. 1: Bad experiences can permanently char your impression of something. We aren’t taught “how to think” in school, so, after being burned, rarely do we stop and realize, “Wait, I know that I was burned by this before, but things could be different now.” (assuming that the thing can CHANGE, and be fixed…) And 2: The human mind has a very hard time noticing change in gradual motion; especially things that change over years. See, Vista’s stability fixes trickled out SLOW, and there was never this grand moment of, “WE HAVE NOW OFFICIALLY FIXED VISTA!!” So… most reviewers had probably either gotten the burn, or done tons of reading on the burns of others… or both. Technophiles squeeze a lot out of their systems, and thus probably run into the major issues, like the nightmare of hardware incompatibility. In doing this, a nice distrust of Vista probably grew. (Now, of course, most of the bad probably happened in 2007, when Vista really was a nightmare.) So, suddenly comparing the bad with a clean, polished OS like Win7… well, that could have been enough to make reviewers think Win7 was a big step forward… of course, not paying much attention to the fact that Vista had almost completely recovered. (In my article on Macs, I go over an almost identical phenomenon, with people getting stuck on old ideas, and not noticing when things change.)
- Putting the nails in the coffin, Windows reviews have rarely EVER been about carefully measuring new Explorer features versus the old ones. (sure, they usually list the new features, and talk about what they do, but they don’t dig in and say, “You know what? This new thing here really slows you down, compared to the old one.” Unfortunately, most reviews have always been about coming up with an impression: poking at bells, and seeing if the brain likes the sound. (At least to a an extent, this “poking the bells” mentality is going to give some advantage to any OS that feels further ahead.) Also, the stability and compatibility of Windows has grown in the minds of techies as being a HUGE thing, so, the promise of improving that must sound good (even if it isn’t legit, since, in this case, Vista has recovered).
Reviewers aside, I think the impressions from regular techies in general have followed much of the same thinking. People who pay attention to computers largely see things through just a few different pairs of goggles.
Before I got my hands on Windows 7, I too followed the above thinking like anyone else. When tech writers that you trust are all saying something, and the factors all look to be lining up, what are you SUPPOSED to think? But when I actually GOT Windows 7, I noticed right away that a couple things I liked from Vista and previous were no good anymore… so, I started paying more attention… and, the closer I got, the worse things looked.
By the way, here’s Vista’s Windows Update log, that I put together in November 2009, shortly after Windows 7’s launch. It basically shows how Windows Update isn’t used to fix anything but under-the-hood issues.
Since then, I’ve still been following Windows Update very closely (for Vista and Win7), and have caught only TWO updates that I found satisfying. One fixed a big startup delay that affected Win 7 users who were using solid colors instead of wallpapers… and the other (a compatibility update) was kind enough to add compatibility for a huge list of really old games and apps, many of which people had been using strange tweaks to get working. Very, very unusual for them to release something like this. I guess too many people were reinstalling all these old apps/games, and blaming Windows for all the issues… or SOMETHING.