HUA HIN, Thailand - Microsoft, keen to avoid a repeat of the nightmares
suffered with its much-faulted Vista operating system, threw open the doors for
public access to the beta version of its Windows 7 system, released last week,
after servers became overloaded with requests for the software for free
download and testing.
Vista was all about being "Flashy" and in many ways trying to imitate something
that rivals Apple had already conquered with its floating user interfaces and
funky graphics in OSX.
Vista lost out in the business sector as companies were never too keen to adopt
the often intrusive and bloated operating system for office and business use,
even today, most companies still use Windows XP or 2000. Windows 7 aims to
derail this trend and has been set only three primary objectives by chief
Steve Ballmer - reliability, simplicity and speed, the perfect combination for
both business and home use.
Yet beta testing is only really intended for the geeks amongst us, those that
like to fix and fiddle with computers. It is not recommended to download and
install Windows 7 beta on a work-critical PC as there will be a number of bugs
in the incomplete software. It will also expire on August 1, 2009 whereupon
users will have to revert to their previous operating system.
A spare machine should be used if you want to take a plunge into the Windows 7
pool. A DVD image can be downloaded in both 32- or 64-bit versions (2.3
gigabytes and 3.3 gigabytes) from www.microsoft.com/windows7. This needs to be
written to a bootable disc that can then be installed on startup.
If you are installing over an existing system, make sure you have all of your
documents and data backed up. To reiterate, some technical knowledge is
required for delving into Microsoft's future flagship product, so if you are
more of a casual computer user who relies on the local shop or office tech
support leave this one to the geeks until the final product is launched.
Global PC sales in the fourth quarter have slowed for the first time in six
years, which is not a good sign for Microsoft, which are pinning hopes on a
strong computer sales market to ship out Windows 7. If the software can run
more efficiently and smoothly on lower specification computers, it may steal
some of the market from Apple and its high-priced hardware.
The current minimum specification for Windows 7 is the same as that for Vista,
a 1-gigahertz, 32- or 64-bit CPU, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 16 gigabytes of hard disk
space and a DirectX 9 capable graphics card. We know that Vista rarely plays
nice with less than 2 gigabytes of memory, but by the time Windows 7 is
released either late this year or early next machines of this specification
will be several years old considering the rapid technological advancements in
Windows 7 may be the saviour for Microsoft, which is still losing ground to
Google in other technology battles. Initial comments are positive and as long
as Microsoft can get the product shipped out and performing well on cheaper
laptops and PCs, it can be optimistic that it claw back some lost market share.
The vital role played by the software that is the humans sitting atop and
shaping the computer world was emphasized this week with the appointment of a
new chief executive at Yahoo and concern over Apple's iconic CEO, Steve Jobs.
Jobs announced on Wednesday that he would be taking medical leave of absence
through June. The 53-year-old has always been seen as the core of Apple and the
announcement leaves the Macintosh faithful wondering who will fill the void.
The news helped to drive Apple shares down by 10% amid concern he may not
return to the helm.
His replacement will be chief operating officer Tim Cook, 48. Many question
whether Cook has either the showmanship or ability for product innovation
associated with Jobs. Even so, Apple is in a strong position to ride out this
storm and many analysts predict that the loss of Jobs will not affect the
company's operations or productivity.
Following a two-month search, struggling Internet pioneer Yahoo on Tuesday
appointed Carol Bartz, 60, its chief executive. She has been described as a
tough-talking technology veteran though may lack the deal-making and web
business know-how to provide a long sought profit turnaround. Bartz takes over
from Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, who said in November that he planned to
resign after a bitter struggle to elude the takeover intentions of Microsoft.
Bartz moves across from Autodesk, where as chief executive she was responsible
for huge revenue growth during her 14-year tenure with the software company.
She will be under immediate pressure from Yahoo investors to re-open
negotiations with Microsoft, so the courtship that went on for several months
last year could well resume again. She will have to do that without the
presence of Yahoo president Susan Decker, who had been considered for the CEO
job and is now leaving the company.
The biggest headline generated by the largest electronics trade show in the US,
which closed in Las Vegas on Sunday, was that attendance was down 22% from the
previous year. International Consumer Electronics Show organizers had predicted
a drop but didn't expect to around an estimated 110,000, down from 141,150 in
One upshot is that the event seemed a little more refined and less hectic than
previous years - exhibitors sent fewer staff and Consumer Electronics
Association spokespeople claimed that the quality of visitors was higher with
less people turning up solely for the freebies.
Even with the lower attendance the annual fare still is the best place to go if
you're a technology, gadget and gizmo freak.
The hunt for life on Mars inched closer to its quarry this week as scientists
discovered methane in the atmosphere of our red neighbor. The gas release was
discovered by three ground-based telescopes and the origins of it are under
fierce debate. The three gaseous hotspots appeared in 2003 and disappeared in
2006, results the study were published this week.
The majority of methane on Earth is produced as a by-product of life, either
from animal digestion or decaying biomass, so one theory is that the gas on
Mars could have been produced by microbial life beneath the surface. The other
theory is that the gas was produced as a result of volcanic activity and
geological changes between molten rock, water and carbon dioxide in the crust.
As the debate stands this week, we are still alone in the universe.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.