Microsoft should have created one version of Windows 7
The world is buzzing about Microsoft’s long overdue new operating system – Windows 7. The folks in Redmond, WA don’t seem too concerned with consistency when it comes to releasing major products – or in this case, its main product. After waiting several years after Windows XP for Vista, it almost seemed like the patience was rewarded with a swift kick in the groin. Now everyone is saying that Windows 7 is what Vista should have been. Indeed, reviews are a lot nicer than the ones for Vista a few years back, and the user interface finally looks like something that belongs in this century. Windows 7 is shaping up to be what Microsoft fans have been hoping for in quite some time: an adequate operating system.
My only gripe is that there are still too many versions to choose from: Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 7 Ultimate. Vista was criticized not only for its shortcomings, but also for being offered in so many different versions. Why can’t Microsoft just make one operating system and offer it to everyone? Take Windows 7 Ultimate and just call it Windows 7. Seal it, ship it and you’re done. At most, maybe the enterprise version can get a pass, too. Offering just one version for consumers will work wonders for Microsoft; Apple does it with its Mac operating system and it seems to be working just fine.
If you take a look at what’s being offered in Windows 7 Ultimate that isn’t available for lesser versions, it makes you scratch and tilt your head sideways in wonder. Ultimate, for example, has the option to “help protect data on your PC and portable storage devices against loss or theft with BitLocker.” That feature is not available on Home Premium or Professional. Who wouldn’t want protection from theft? There are more options available in higher Windows 7 versions that I think should come standard on all the others. Why offer lesser versions with, well, lesser options? With operating systems, I believe that it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around.
Also, when it comes to choice, more isn’t always better. Microsoft’s take on this is that people want options. Choice creates a sense of empowerment and the feeling that being able to make a decision ultimately makes the product right for you. This reminds me of a study done by Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, where having options and choices actually led to unhappy and doubtful subjects:
One experiment of Gilbert’s had students in a photography class at Harvard choose two favorite pictures from among those they had just taken and then relinquish one to the teacher. Some students were told their choices were permanent; others were told they could exchange their prints after several days. As it turned out, those who had time to change their minds were less pleased with their decisions than those whose choices were irrevocable.
Consumers who purchase the lower end versions of Windows 7 might come to regret their decision later when they realize there are features on higher versions that they want or need. Or maybe those who splurge on the top-of-the-line version come to find that it was more than necessary and regret spending all that cash. This could all be alleviated, and possibly produce a better-than-average operating system, if Microsoft would have spent its time and resources on one version for the masses. And maybe one for the enterprise market.
(Note: Moments after I wrote this piece, a friend pointed out that The Raw Feed jokingly announced a single Windows 7 version as an April Fool’s joke earlier this year.)