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>> I'm Robert Fomosi [assumed spelling], senior editor, CNET. Today we're taking a first look at Windows 7 ultimate build 6801, a remarkably feature-rich and performance stable alpha version of Microsoft's successor to Windows Vista. At first glance, Windows 7 seems to be an enhanced, dare I say it, perfected version of Windows Vista, one that's geared more for the consumer, with a lot more user interface enhancements. Indeed, Windows 7 builds on the internals of Windows Vista. Booting up and shutting down is much faster in Windows 7. The operating system consumes far fewer resources, so you probably won't need new hardware if your computer is already Vista compatible. Instead of being greeted by Vista's welcome center, users are taken to Windows Live messenger sign in page. The Windows start icon is smaller in this build, but functionally it's virtually the same as in Windows Vista. The Windows sidebar from Windows Vista appears to be gone, but the gadgets remain, free to be placed on the desktop. The Windows security center from Windows XP SP2 appears to be gone as well, incorporated into the new action center section of the control panel. A new feature is the Bluetooth file transfer wizard. There will be other Bluetooth features in later builds of Windows 7, Microsoft says. A fun new feature is sticky notes, which can be posted anywhere on the desktop, or organized using a corkboard like application. Another fun feature is that any window dragged to the side of the desktop is instantly resized. Ribbons, a feature borrowed from Office 2007, appears throughout Windows 7. Even the venerable applications like Paint now sport a ribbon interface, as does Wordpad. Another important UI change from Windows Vista is the user account control. In Vista you could have this protection on or off. In Windows 7 there's a slider control between always notify and never notify, enabling users to find a personal setting that fits their needs. Missing from this build is a new task bar at the bottom of Windows 7 desktop, which pops up thumbnails of open windows, called the jump list, as a user hovers over a particular open application. Windows 7 won't be in stores until at least 2010, which begs a question. Should you even bother to upgrade to Windows Vista. If you're happy with Windows XP, I'd wait. Windows Vista is okay, but even in alpha, Windows 7 is a lot better operating system for the average consumer. We expect a beta some time in early 2009, and who knows, based on user feedback, we might even see Windows 7 on shelves Christmas of 2009. For CNET, I'm Robert Fomosi.
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