Five Things That Separate Windows 7 From Vista

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1. Energy Efficiency: According to Microsoft, PCs running Windows 7 can experience a 20 percent gain in power efficiency because of "timer coalescing." That works to keep the processor in a low-power state for as long as possible, thereby extending battery life. Naturally, performance will ultimately depend on how PC manufacturers configure their machines.

2. Memory management: Part of the problem with Vista was that its requirements for memory and other components should have been set higher. The requirements for a high-end version of Windows 7 are similar to those needed to run the heftier versions of Vista. However, Microsoft says Windows 7 will be better at managing memory and therefore should not bog down less-powerful machines. In fact, Microsoft has been promoting the idea that Windows 7 can run on some pretty small machinery, like netbooks. Windows 7 computers should also boot up and shut down more quickly.

3. Desktop organization. Users should be able to more easily manage open windows through an improved taskbar. Windows 7 also has a feature that lets users view one particular window or check out the desktop that may be hidden under open windows.

4. XP friendliness. Before the Vista fiasco -- which did offer Apple great advertising fodder -- there was XP. The XP operating system was released at the end of 2001 and more that 400 million copies were in use in January 2006, according to IDC. A significant number of those never "upgraded" to Vista. Recognizing XP's longevity, Microsoft Windows 7 will include "Windows XP Mode." The feature, which is available for the release candidate as a separate download, lets users run several XP-era programs from a Windows 7 PC. According to the CRN Test Center, XP Mode is a sweet spot for organizations that may have custom, in-house applications that "break" in Windows 7, however, Microsoft has so far seemed to live up to the promise of "if it works in Vista, it will work in Windows 7." Reports of blatant software or device driver incompatibility have been few. It seems as though most of the major software and hardware vendors have taken pains to ensure that their products work on Windows 7.

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5. Confidence: Microsoft has not changed the code to Windows 7 since mid-July. Vista, on the other hand, had a far more rocky start. With the code set in place, PC makers can ready a wide variety of new, compatible, PCs should be ready to launch with Windows 7 in October. Compatibility issues severely rocked confidence at the time of Vista's launch in January 2007. With a stable, predictable product launch, solution providers and retailers may get a sales boost at the end of a generally lackluster year.