Windows 7 launch: job done

I've just sat through Microsoft's press launch of Windows 7, a low-key event suffused with a quiet confidence. It was a far cry from the glitzy Vista

Today's event starless but well stocked with software. And despite a couple of technical hitches, Microsoft will be happy - because the hard work had already been done before this event was even planned. Developers and manufacturers have been given time to make their products compatible, and users have had a chance to test the OS out and feed back on changes.

Unlike Vista, the buzz around Windows 7 is already positive - and not just from journalists - some 15million people used the beta version of the operating system (8million who signed up legitimately and 'a further 7million who got it somehow', as Microsoft's VP of Windows Experience Julie Larson Green proudly revealed).

Of course, because so many people have seen Windows, there's little new to report from this event, aside from the fact that Sky Player will be available through the Media centre interface (though we had to take Sky's word for this as the God of Demonstrations decided to destroy the press event's internet connection). No matter: the gathered journalists know that Windows 7 is a vast improvement on Vista, cutting away the devastating bloat so that the new OS can run on quickly on notebooks as well as high-specced games machines.

But as the world reels from recession, will all this positive buzz turn into sales? And can Windows 7 stop Microsoft's market share from being squeezed by Apple at the top end and Google's new operating system - which launches late 2010 - at the bottom?

At the moment, things are looking good for Microsoft. DSGi, owners of PC World, used today's even to announce it had sold more copies of Windows 7 in the 3-week pre-order period than Vista sold in its entire first year.

And the new Windows kit looks good, too, from the big multi-touch all-in-ones from HP and Sony to the tiny Samsung N310 netback - not to mention the MacBook Air-bothering Sony X-series laptop, which is astonishingly light (and expensive). Apparently 97% of people will get Windows 7 through a new PC, which makes I suppose makes whining about the dodgy wipe-and-install upgrade from XP a little churlish.

Won't stop me whining about the lack of a downloadable or flash-drive version of Windows 7 for installation on netbooks, though - it seems like an astonishing oversight.

I'm now off to Apple, who coincidentally have a press event on the same day as the Windows 7 launch, to check out the new 27in iMac and Magic Mouse to see how they stack up. Then I have to figure how to install Windows 7 on a my Asus Eee PC without buying an external DVD drive. Any ideas?