However, much like the 90s was the decade of the Internet and the browser increasingly became the center of our world, this decade is about "the Cloud" and how we increasingly are living in it. The hot products over the last several years have been phones, not PCs. And increasingly they have been differentiated more by back-end offerings like Application Stores, location-based services, and streaming media.
Let's talk about my experiences so far with Windows 7 and then shift to what the elements are of what well be working from next decade as the market transitions to its next phase.
Windows 7 on 2 Desktops and a Netbook
One of the questions I've been hearing a lot has to do with Microsoft's promise that Windows 7 will work on a Netbook and whether we should believe it. The answer after two weeks is: absolutely.
Windows 7 runs fine on a Netbook and improves on Windows Vista in a number of ways. The improvements include a more intuitive user interface with fewer menus left over from Windows NT, less annoying warning messages, faster performance, a more advanced task bar, and vastly easier to set-up networking.
Currently I'm running it on two desktops as well, both on the other side of the performance curve. Both are I7-based, one running twin ATI 4870x2 cards with twin high-speed flash drives, and the other running three NVIDIA 280s and fast magnetic drives.
One big take away has been that flash, or Solid State Drives, makes a huge difference in performance and system noise. The other is the systems seem to be rock solid, incredibly fast, and generally much more capable networked.
I run twin 24" screens (used to run 4 19" screens) and I'm always losing windows. The new task bar is wonderful for finding stuff you have open on the desktop and manage it. This may, for me, be worth the price of admission for this thing all by itself because its a huge time saver.
Even games seem to be working better though, as is typically, I did have issues with the Antivirus product I use, which ironically, is Microsoft's own OneCare.
Overall this is what a maintenance release generally is, primarily a product that addresses the shortcomings of what came before. And Windows 7 is arguably the best general purpose PC operating system I have yet used, even though it is in beta. Still, and this is a rule I'm clearly breaking myself, I wouldn't use any beta product on a production platform and care still needs to be taken.
There was a 4th computer system I tried Windows 7 on and it didn't like it at all primarily because it hit the market after the beta of Windows 7 I'm using went out.
This means there are risks and you'll probably either want this on new hardware or want to wait a few weeks after launch before installing it so that others can discover all of the little surprises and fix them before they hit you.
Granted, launch is still some time out and we have yet to see Snow Leopard of if Google is rumored to have a Netbook version of Android in market. But if you are on a dying XP machine or frustrated with Vista it does give you something to look forward to.
Windows vs. The Cloud
I'm not going to bother with the typical Windows vs. the MacOS commentary because I think the real fight is brewing between desktop and Cloud-Based Portable Personality, not between companies that have PC offerings.
Apple's iPhone experience is much more compelling than their PC experience and I doubt it will be that long before elements of the phone start showing up on Apple PCs. And partially what makes it compelling is the Cloud-based Application Store and MobileMe (when it works).