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Windows 7's biggest threat: Journalists

Are journalists the biggest threat to Windows 7 when it hits store shelves next year? It's an interesting theory and one that some might not like.

When Microsoft finally releases its follow-up to Windows Vista and it's time for the business and technology journalists (yes, bloggers are included in that grouping) across the world to decide if Windows 7 is the kind of operating system most people should want to use, Microsoft will be facing a deluge of biased individuals that, aware of that bias or not, won't give Windows 7 a fair shake.

Maybe it's wrong for a journalist to call out colleagues and fill you in on a dirty little secret that occurs across all sectors of this business, but, to be quite honest, I don't think I'm saying anything that should come as a surprise to anyone who follows the news. Regardless of whether you believe in the greatness of Steve Jobs or you choose to use only Velocity Micro machines out of your hatred for Apple, one thing remains: the vast majority of journalists use Macs to write their stories and have a deep-seated love for Apple products.

And although some journalists are expected to be "objective," I'm a firm believer that that's impossible. Aware or not of the language being used, there isn't one journalist in the world (tech or not) that can be undeniably objective at any time. I applaud it, though -- I think objectivity is a crock and doesn't truly reflect the history and time-honored tradition of journalism.

But I digress. When Windows 7 hits store shelves and countless PCs near you, don't expect too many glowing endorsements. Granted, there will be some and I'm sure that you'll find some of the best coverage here on CNET, thanks to a relatively diverse set of journalists that fall on either side of the fence. But across the Web, don't expect too many positive reviews.

Why? Because when a journalist that was (at one time, at least) a geek writes a review about Windows on a Mac machine, which they have used for the past decade, immediately they have lost true objectivity and they're playing in a world that's unknown. In essence, they were raised and continue to thrive off a Mac and now they're expected to comment on a Windows machine?

I don't think so.

Of course, this same form of bias can be found in any journalism topic area. Most people believe Fox News leans to the right in its reporting, while those same people believe MSNBC leans to the left. I'm sure both companies would claim that they're dead center in their reporting and it may even seem that way during news reports, but any astute observer would be able to identify slight differences in story selection and story reporting that tells us otherwise.

The same holds true for the Apple-Microsoft saga that continues to develop in this industry.

When was the last time you saw the entire technology field stop and wait for an announcement from any other company besides Apple? Every few months, Steve Jobs takes the stage and tells the world about Apple's latest developments. Sometimes, those announcements are major and warrant considerable coverage. But most times, especially when Jobs announces new colors for the iPod and a slightly modified design, hardly any coverage is needed at all. And yet, hundreds of outlets flock to Cupertino to hear what a balding old man has to say about a music player that has gone through so many changes, I couldn't care less anymore.

Does Logitech get the same kind of treatment when it makes major announcements? No way. I was at an event last year at CES where Logitech outlined its products for the year and detailed its opportunities for success. Hardly anyone showed up and coverage was extremely limited.

Does Microsoft get the Apple treatment? Quite the contrary. Rarely does the tech journalism field stop to hear what Ballmer has to say and even when Microsoft does hold a major press event, it doesn't receive the praise Apple's does. When Steve Jobs leaves the stage, we're forced to listen to journalists banter about his "stage presence" and his ability to "captivate" a crowd.

Give me a break.

Was Windows Vista an ideal operating system? Not a chance. But without the constant bashing on the part of major technology and business journalists, I doubt too many of those issues would have seeped into the public psyche. And if we believe Microsoft's internal research, most consumers didn't have the kind of trouble that's been highlighted so many times on pages across the Web.

So what do we learn from that? I think we learn that Windows 7 will need to be exceptional in order to be considered "good" and if it's only nominally better than Vista, Microsoft will be forced to contend with an avalanche of bad press that it's ill-prepared to confront.

Now, excuse me while I charge this MacBook, make a few calls on my iPhone 3G, and listen to some tunes on my iPod.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.