For the Windows desktop user, the most significant change coming is obviously Windows 7, which was just released into general beta test. Windows 7 signals the end of an era for Windows XP users, the primary target of this OS upgrade.

One very common comment I’m hearing from users of the Windows 7 beta is “it doesn’t feel like a beta.” Users are surprised by its stability, and many have told me that it was “faster than Windows XP” on the same hardware, a comment often delivered in a somewhat shocked tone of voice.

If there is a single reason for small business users to move to Windows 7 it will be because Windows 7 will be more secure than Windows XP— not just from external attack, but also from security problems created by admin configuration errors. Another advantage for small business users is Windows 7’s simplified configuration for workgroup networking, which allows detailed control of who has access to what, from an easy-to-use interface. Far too many small businesses run with few or no access controls due to the lack of technical knowledge about configuring access to shared resources.

More importantly, at least in terms of long-term effects, is the fact that the 64-bit version of Windows 7 does an excellent job of running existing 32-bit applications. With the push towards the 64-bit OS, users will be buying new systems that can take full advantage of the hardware, letting developers build more general-purpose 64-bit applications. Users will no longer run into the memory problems associated with Windows Vista, and the low price of memory means that the typical Windows 7 desktop will have at least 4GB of RAM, if not more, and software and applications that can take advantage of it.

The memory space occupied in the 32-bit OS by video memory will be taken out of the user’s workspace, freeing video adapter vendors to build even more powerful and capable display adapters, which, in turn, will allow more complex imaging and higher resolution displays to be supported. The gaming world will initially feel the impact of improved imaging, but business will see the effect too as improved imaging technologies will further the trend of using multiple high-resolution displays.

To read more about Windows 7, see these Windows IT Pro pieces:
"Making History"
"Skip Windows Vista and Keep Skipping?"
"Windows 7 Beta on EEE900HA"