Sneak peeks: In Windows 7, holding the cursor over the icon for an active application pulls up thumbnail images of the open windows.
Anyone who wants to make an operating system has to wrestle with the same problems, says Ed Chi, area manager and senior research scientist for augmented social cognition at the Palo Alto Research Center. As computers have become more powerful, users keep more windows open, he says, and designers have been working on how to organize the clutter. Chi says that the thumbnail previews and other improvements to Windows 7’s interface will definitely increase users’ ability to select the correct window quickly. However, he cautions, it may not increase their productivity, since designs that encourage people to keep a multitude of windows open may help distract them from the tasks at hand.
Windows 7 also continues Microsoft’s foray into touch-screen interfaces, previously demonstrated by products such as the Surface, its touch-screen table computer. Kirk Godkin, Hewlett-Packard’s manager of business desktops for North America, says that many of the software vendors that he works with are excited at the prospect of an operating system that is engineered to accommodate touch. (At CES, HP announced its dx9000 TouchSmart Business PC, which supports touch as well as the traditional keyboard and mouse.)
But Bederson says that he sees touch-screen computers as a minor market for Windows 7. The much more important thing, he says, is that the operating system is significantly faster than Vista. That means that many people with slower computers, who were unwilling to switch to Vista, will be more likely to upgrade to Windows 7. “It’s Vista that works,” Bederson says. “They fixed the problems, and they polished it up. Good for them.”