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Microsoft Multitouch Video Demos Windows 7's Irrelevance

Microsoft's demonstrations of the touch-response goodness built into the upcoming Windows 7 operating system are "cool." But it's made me realize something else too: Windows 7 is irrelevant.

First, check out the video to see the scrolling in action—it's all gesture-based multitouch.


<a href="" target="_new" title="Windows 7 Touch Gestures">Video: Windows 7 Touch Gestures</a>

Now you may be thinking "sweet!" and you may be remembering our forecast of touchscreen ubiquity in the near future. But the fact is that Microsoft isn't demoing anything particularly innovative here. I'm writing this on an Apple MacBook running the latest OS X version, and though I'm using a large touchpad rather than a touchscreen, I've used at least three of those identical gestures for swift productivity while writing this piece. Apple's extensively patented much of this technology, and employed it to make the UI on the iPhone a majestically user-friendly beast. And if all the rumors of an Apple tablet PC come true, it's not hard to imagine it using even more multitouch gestures.

Essentially it seems Windows 7 multitouch is derivative, playing catchup to other systems already out there. Sure, "7" is, overall, an evolution of existing Windows tech, and a "borrowing" of other people's UI ideas, all piled together into a new OS which from all accounts is better than Windows Vista (though that's not a particularly high bar to hurdle). But have you seen anything in the new system that's impressed you with its raw innovation? Windows 7 is going to go on millions of desktop PCs, notebooks, and netbooks over the next several years not because it's innovative or amazing, but simply because Microsoft has relentless inertia developed through its years of monopolistic business. 

Even Microsoft's new anti-Apple campaign highlights the vanillaness of Windows—the character in the ad thinks she's "not cool enough" to own an Apple machine, and opts for a much cheaper (and, though its not described, lower-specced machine). The ad makes no mention of the benefits of the Windows OS at all. Microsoft is portraying itself as irrelevant.


<a href="" target="_new" title="Laptop Hunters $1000 – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion">Video: Laptop Hunters $1000 – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion</a>

So is Windows 7 going to have the "wow!" factor of a totally new approach to a UI, like the many Minority Report-like OS's being developed, or the radical "Windows Icons Mice and Pointers" paradigm shift invented by Xerox PARC and popularized by the original Macintosh? No. As far as pushing the boundaries of operating systems goes, I'm definitely calling it an irrelevant development.

[via DVice

Related: The Fast Company 50 - #34 Microsoft

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  • Victoria Chen

    @kit i think when the woman in the commercial says she's "just not cool enough to be a mac person", what she really means is that she won't spend so much more money on a machine that is very good looking but isn't significantly more superior in functionality. when i was considering a mac i was quite put off by having to purchase specialised (and more expensive) accessories. Windows-machines offer much more for much less. the msg of the ad is really how windows bring technology closer to the masses, not to show off technical benefits of the OS.

    btw i own a fujitsu tablet running on windows and i love it.

  • Steve Warnock

    @Kit. I wish you would start this article with the words "Editorial" so that your opinions are not taken as facts. Microsoft demo'ed their tablet technology at Comdex in 2001. Recent products such as Surface and now Windows 7 have obviously built on that technology. In FACT, Microsoft lost a lawsuit last year with GO Systems regarding gesture based systems. At what point Apple comes in all this, I am unsure but your not even close.

  • Chuck Rey

    I still like Steve Jobs' quote, "Apple's market share is bigger than BMW's or Mercedes's or Porsche's in the automotive market. What's wrong with being BMW or Mercedes?"

  • R Q

    Fact: TabletPC's are already out there with (resistive, active and capacitive multitouch screens).
    Fact: multitouch PC's are already out there.
    Question: Would Apple selling a tabletpc or multitouch imac be "just selling an idea that's already out there"?

    You referenced the "touchscreen ubiquity". Doesn't that make Win7 even more relevant than ever?

  • Brent Kraus

    Well said R Q
    @Kit. Point being, Microsoft can get its "new innovative" OS out to 89% of the market, where as Apple can only do that to about 9%

  • Kit Eaton

    @Brent. Is that innovation? It's just selling an idea that's already out there, and the majority of those 89% won't have touchscreens, at least at first.

  • R Q

    Let's dissect this article shall we?

    Claim: "Windows 7 is irrelevant"

    Irrelevant (Definition):
    "having no bearing on or connection with the subject at issue;"

    Paragraph 1
    1) Video shows multitouch
    2) reference article on how touch(insert device here) will be everywhere "touchscreen ubiquity"
    3) Gestures already exist in latest OSX via touchpad
    4) reference article "Does Apple Own Multitouch"
    5) Dream about a tabletpc with "even more gestures"

    Paragraph 2
    1) Win7 multitouch is derivative
    2) win7 is:
    evolution of existing Windows tech
    borrowing other UI
    better than Vista
    3) Ask your oppinion if it impresses you
    4) Win 7 will be on millions of machines
    5) Microsoft = monopolistic business

    Paragraph 3
    1) Microsoft campain focus on "not cool enough" or "new anti-Apple"
    2) Does not mention benefits of OS
    3) Campaign suggests irrelevance

    1) Asks Win7 = WOW + New approach to UI OR "Windows Icons Mice and Pointers"
    2) Answer is NO
    3) Win7 = irrelevant development in terms of pushing OS boundaries

    Based on the definition of irrelevant, it seems that 95% of the article is irrelevant in terms of the claim that "Windows 7 is irrelevant". It seems like this article has more to do with your feelings about Microsoft than Win7 being irrelevant.

  • Brent Kraus

    @Kit. "But the fact is that Microsoft isn't demoing anything particularly innovative here" Really? how about bringing a touch OS to roughly 89% of the market.

  • Heath Rowell

    Well, I can mention quite a few things that have impressed me with Windows 7... in particular the aero shake, which is definitely changing the speed in which I'm managing windows within the operating system even within the mouse. Beyond that, I think the multi-touch features of Windows 7 is being brought over from Surface technology, which I think was playing with touch input before Apple was (despite the fact that its still in development). I agree with the lack of revolutionary content beyond that, but new next Mac OS is going to be quite evolutionary as well. Personally, I think Microsoft could of gone ahead and pushed 64 bit OS standard with this one, but Minority Report like OS's are still quite impractical. Of course, this is a guy who's quite happy with Windows Vista, so maybe I'm just not picky enough.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Noah. Not particularly-- if you read the piece, the point I'm really making is that Microsoft could've really shaken up the box with Windows 7, really changed how millions of people use computers. But it seems it hasn't--it's just incremental, "safe".