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Windows 7: Vista in new clothes

Two years into the Vista era, and the Windows natives are restless.

Despite broad third-party application and hardware support, a Service Pack (SP1) release, and a blitz of Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld ads, nothing can disguise the fundamental problem: many people simply hate Windows Vista.

Although not all the criticism is fair, the operating system's reputation remains so tarnished that there may be little chance of salvaging it, at least not with a product bearing the name Vista. So Microsoft will soon turn the page, launching Windows 7, probably sometime within the next year.

See also: Windows 7 review

Windows 7 feels more like a cleanup of existing code than a full-on new release. Sure, Microsoft says it is focusing on customer gripes by improving performance, cutting down on the nagging dialog boxes of doom, and making the whole thing more intuitive. But under the hood, the Windows kernel gets only a spit-shine, not a full rewrite, and the interface won't change radically either.

Still, I expect many of us are skeptical of this coming upgrade. Full revisions of Windows operating systems can be risky in the best of times; cautious types would propably prefer to avoid the kind of soup-to-nuts revamp that scrapped Windows XP in favour of Vista. That's why I would like to offer some unsolicited (and surely unwelcome) advice to the marketing folks in Redmond: you might want to drop the Windows 7 name in favour of something that doesn't imply we're all going to have to start from scratch and learn a radically new operating system.

See also: Windows Vista review

What did I have in mind? How about Windows ReVista, Windows Mulligan, or even Vista 2? All three suggest a do-over, a time-honoured American tradition. Another possibility might be Windows Mojave: that's the name given to a mythical "new" operating system that Microsoft showed to focus groups of users who were critical of Vista.

The skeptics gave Mojave high marks, and were shocked to learn that it was actually Vista with the name stripped out. Added bonus: large parts of the Mojave Desert are flat stretches that offer broad vistas (without the uppercase V).

Then again, maybe Microsoft is signaling that it is about to do something dramatic. In that case, prosaic old "Win 7" is a total snoozer. Instead, Ballmer's boys should take a page from the Mac playbook. Apple has already cornered the market on wildcat names, with Cheetah, Jaguar, Panther, Leopard, and even Snow Leopard locked up. But canines are still available. How about Windows Wolf, MS Coyote, or simply Dingo? Just don't call it Microsoft Labradoodle. People will say it's a dog.

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Windows 7 News Spotlight for the latest on Microsoft's upcoming successor to Vista

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Microsoft News Spotlight for the latest news on the software giant

Steve Fox is editorial director of PCWorld.com

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