At today's launch event for Window's 7, the most telling comment about the new OS was left to last.
One journo asked - quite rightly - when Microsoft expected the first Service Pack for Win7 to be released. Fair question, too. There's always things that don't make it to market in time for launch, bugs that need to be fixed, and so on. The question got a laugh from those in the audience, and those on stage, but the answer was a good one.
"Well," said Jeff Putt, head of Windows consumer stuff at Microsoft Australia, "it's already out. It launches today, in fact." It's a smug, pat answer, but it's also very true. This is easily the most complete OS that Microsoft has ever released.
There's not a single aspect of the OS that doesn't feel sleeker and more well-designed. It boots up faster, let's you actually do stuff while it still loads more stuff in the background, has all those neat new features like Snap, and the new preview bar and all that. But that's just window dressing (see what I did thar?) - the real proof is that, finally, this is an OS that seems to content to work quietly, unobtrusively, to let me do my own thing.
The truth is, to a gamer or overclocker, we don't spend that much time in the OS - we're either busting caps in CoD4, messing about in the BIOS and doing arcane things that even I don't get with voltage and spray on latex, or with the machine actually off while we upgrade to the next monolithically scaled video card release.
Forget the bells and whistles - we like Windows 7 because it installs fast, and then stays out of your face.
And speaking of games...
One of the big issues any gamer goes through when migrating across to a new OS is working out what will and won't work in their collection. Most people - us included - have anywhere around a dozen games installed on their systems at all times, so this is a big issue.
A thread in our forum is actually going through just this, and has so far found only two games that don't really play well with Windows 7, and that's likely more to do with odd DRM issues than true compatibility problems.
Between the excellent XP mode, and the fact that Win7 just seems to work as promised, every other game - and there are about 50-plus games already listed as working just fine. Check out the thread, and add your own experiences to the list so we can get an even more thorough picture.
Then there's DirectX 11, out now as part of Windows 7, and expected to start showing up in games like Dirt 2, Aliens V Predator and more. We saw some prepared footage of AvP at the 5870 launch recently, and while the effects that Dx11 brings to the table are subtle, they're at least as impressive as the changes gamers saw when they moved from Dx9 to Dx10.
Alt-Tabbing from game to desktop has always been a bit iffy, with some games more than others, but this is another area where we've found 7 to be a vast improvement. No crashes, no lock-ups, just seamless integration between game and OS. Jeff Putt proudly told us today that Alt-Tab is effectively dead now, thanks to Windows 7 new browsing experience, and he might be right - on the desktop.
For gamers, it's better than ever.
The proof is in the PR smiles
Most of us reading this, however, likely know all we need to about Windows 7 already. We've been using it, getting to know it, for months preceding the launch, whether it be in the Beta, or with the RTM or RC versions. So, in a way, the actual official launch is a bit of a beat up, a media event dog and pony show to play to the cheap seats.
But even more than that line about service packs, the thing that really stuck in mind walking away from the event was the unusual cheer of everyone who got up on stage. Not only that; they were relieved.
For the first time - and this was mentioned a lot - Microsoft now has the right to be happy with its work. The sucking chest wound that was Vista (which, we were told, will be supported "as long as customers want it") is in the past now. Instead, we have a sleeker OS that is at one and the same time easier to use, and more powerful. There were no dubious looks, no attempts to hide any shortfalls or pass them off as 'features'.
And that, to me, is the biggest single metric I can think of.