Face it, activation is a failure. For power users who frequently upgrade their PCs, dialing in to reactivate the OS is beyond irritating. Instead, Microsoft must come up with a novel way to punish pirates without annoying its paying customers. (May we suggest displaying massive popup ads in pirate copies of Windows?) For legitimate customers, a realistic home-licensing program—buy one copy at full price, get four more upgrades for $50 to $100 each—would go a long way toward creating goodwill.
Streamline the UAC System
We definitely approve of the spirit behind User Account Control—it’s good to warn users when they’re doing something risky. However, the implementation is so chatty that it trains users to automatically click Approve on any popup they see. This is insanely dangerous behavior that must be fixed in Windows 7.
Add Something Inspirational
Say what you like about Steve Jobs, but he stirs the Apple faithful into a frenzy with his promise of “one more thing.” Apple has done a great job of adding features, applications, and functionality to OS X that inspire its users. Some of that is just marketing mumbo jumbo, but the tight integration and the user-focused design of Apple’s integrated apps impress even the most die-hard PC user.
64-Bit is the New 32-Bit
It’s time. The 64-bit revolution is upon us, and it’s time for Microsoft to lead the charge. The hardware is available and common, and software vendors should have been planning for the 64-bit change for the last five years. Please, Microsoft, make the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 the default install. And while you’re at it, allow users to install the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows on the same machine without buying two licenses. Anything less is just crass.
Create Fewer Versions
We understand that creating many versions of an OS with a few key differentiators can help drive sales at the higher end. But it’s a viciously consumer-unfriendly practice that needs to be stopped. Nothing’s worse than finding out you’ve purchased the wrong software or that because of obscure upgrade paths you’re railroaded into buying an incredibly overpriced version of the OS whose only differentiating factor is that it works with your rig. Actually, one thing is worse: finding out you can’t return that already opened Vista box for a version you can use.
Jettison Backward Compatibility
So many of Vista’s problems are directly tied to backward compatibility, but we have the perfect solution. Instead of building backward compatibility into the OS, ship each copy of Windows with Virtual PC and bare-bones images of Windows XP. Let users run old apps in a virtualized OS, and strip out all the cruft that’s required to make them run natively in Windows 7.
Make Performance Paramount
We expect to take a small performance hit in games anytime we upgrade our operating system. We don’t like it, but we understand that it’s the way things go. What we can’t abide is taking massive performance penalties in basic computing tasks—like transferring files over a network. There’s no wiggle room on this one: Get it right the first time.
A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but we like good audio too. There’s more than enough blame to pass around between Creative and Microsoft for Vista’s sound woes. At this point, we don’t care who is at fault, we just want a successor to DirectSound 3D in the next version of Windows and DirectX.