I would like to clear up a few things first. I’m writing this article out of pure interest. I don’t get paid by Microsoft or any of their partners for posting this. My only intentions are to help the readers make a better choice about their operating systems, something that would suite their needs perfectly whether its Windows, OS X, or Linux.
This article is a direct response to the Where to Buy Original Windows in Pakistan? article. A lot of people seem misinformed about Windows 7, so I thought I should do an article and try to address those concerns. Please note that I’m not going into a fanboy debate here so please no illogical reasons to pirate or dump Windows 7 in favor of Linux distribution. If you have an issue then make sure its based on Windows 7 and not on a previous version of Windows or personal interest/hatred.
This is a rather long article, so make sure you skim through it all. If you don’t have the time, bookmark and read it later. The videos included are random and don’t really relate to the sections they are included in. Here is a quick index of the topics for you to jump to it quickly.
What is Windows 7
Windows 7 is the latest version of desktop operating systems in the Microsoft Windows lineup. This is very significant because Windows currently has 91% market share in computer operating systems. Meaning every 9 in 10 computers are running a version of Microsoft Windows.
The last major version of Windows, known as Vista had to face a lot of issues. It had numerous problems at launch which included almost no driver support, compatibility problems as well as steep hardware requirements. Of course, Microsoft was responsible for about half of these problems while the rest were due to the laziness of independent hardware and software vendors, who didn’t update their products for Windows Vista in time.
Up till now, even Vista has improved a lot. Unfortunately, the bad press it got early on completely destroyed it. In fact, I never jumped to Windows Vista after XP and had actually switched to Ubuntu 8.10 when the Windows 7 M3 (PDC Build) came out last December. That’s when I switched back to Windows, and even though I still have Ubuntu (now 9.04) setup as a Dual boot, I hardly log into it after about 2 or three months.
In terms of features, Windows 7 improves upon Vista’s flaws. And for the first time ever, Microsoft took the Open Source approach and tailored Windows 7 according to the community feedback. All new features in Windows 7 from the new taskbar to home media features are what the users had asked Microsoft to put into the operating system. Here’s a quick list of 10 biggest new features of Windows 7.
Application and Driver Compatibility
As for application compatibility and driver support, Windows 7 has set the record of not breaking a single application. This means all those applications which worked with Windows Vista or XP will work with Windows 7 too, and just for added assurance, it also features a free XP Mode to run legacy software.
As for drivers, I didn’t have to install a single thing with Windows. Every piece of hardware worked right out of the box including graphics. And as I add or connect new hardware to the system (flash drives, hard drives, cameras, printers, scanners etc), the new Device Stage feature automatically downloads and installs the correct drivers and support software like Nokia PC Suite for example. This is one blow out feature.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Mac OS X and Linux. You don’t have to worry about OS X drivers because you really can’t add new hardware to a Mac so that’s good. As for Linux, most hardware vendors don’t offer quality drivers and users often have to rely on community developed open source drivers which come with bugs and a cumbersome installation process which usually includes reinstalling.
Security and Software
Linux used to be (and still is) a lot more secure compared to Windows. But since the days of Windows Vista, Microsoft has implemented many advanced security features like ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) and DEP (Data Execution Prevention) which even Linux doesn’t fully support. But that is ok because Linux is almost never targeted by hackers and malware authors due to its low (less than 2%) of total desktop install base.
Same is the case why Linux and OS X (which is inferior to Windows in terms of security) don’t get a lot of viruses and malware. Suppose you are making a new softdrink and from the market analysis, you find out that 90% of the people like Cola, while only 10% like other flavors, say Orange. What would be your logical choice of flavor? Cola obviously because a lot more people would buy/use that.
This isn’t limited to malware and viruses only, in fact it applies to all dimensions of the computing industry including general purpose hardware and software. Everyone develops for Windows not because they want to but because more people use it. Similarly, the iPhone OS is a lot more popular among developers because people buy it for the sake of applications. You don’t see that many applications developed for Windows Mobile.
Most Linux distributions like Ubuntu have a much better way for software installation called Package Manager, which allow you to browse and download software from different repositories. While this approach works, it is still a pain to install basic tools like Adobe Flash Player, or Adobe Air or even a PDF author/viewer. Plus there aren’t any professional content creating software like the Adobe Creative Suite or Expression or Autodesk’s software.
Multimedia and Gaming
This is the prime focus of almost all the desktop home users. They want their computers to do Multimedia and gaming. Of course Windows is the only package that supports both of these features out of the box. You don’t have to download stuff like Gstreamer for media, and you don’t have lack of gaming support you have on a Mac.
Windows 7 makes it even better with adding support for DirectX 11 as well as Home Media streaming so you can access your media and documents stored on your home PC from anywhere in the world. Plus you can play your media on any compatible device in your Homegroup even if its not in your home.
These are two features which you can only get on Windows though of course not everyone cares about multimedia and gaming. But again that is just a small fraction of the total population.
Pirating vs. Buying Windows 7 legally
There are several advantages to buying Windows 7 legally. First of all, you are entitled to free customer support as well as exclusive content only available to genuine users. Second and the most important reason is that you are secure. Genuine Windows gets security updates automatically so you are always free from viruses and other security threats.
Third reason is the moral satisfaction. When you pirate something, you rob someone of their hardwork. It is just like you are motor mechanic and someone brings their car to your garage but doesn’t pay you for fixing it. Or you work a normal 9 to 5 job but you don’t get paid at all. How would that feel? How would you bring food home for your children?
Have you ever stopped to consider that by doing that, you’re not only damaging big companies like Microsoft, but also small software developers like those in Pakistan? We should be proud of the fact that we have one of the best IT infrastructures in the world, which is even far superior to our next door neighbor India. Still we are left out in the cold because we can’t export software or IT services because of Piracy. And then we have to rely on foreign aid which come with their own restrictive terms.
People who make software are humans (and a very large percentage is Muslim) and we rob them and their families of their livelihood. Same is with Open Source Software. Sure it sounds very nice, free software for everyone but is that practical? How do you plan to feed your family and pay the bills if you give out your hardwork for free?
Windows 7 is Cheap in Pakistan
Windows 7 only costs Rs. 3500 for the Starter edition here in Pakistan. And that is only if you aren’t eligible for one of the many programs where you can get it for FREE. Yes you can get it for Free and that too legally.
If you are a student at a good educational institute, you will be eligible for a FREE license to Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate. That’s how I get it. But note that I said good, not major institute. The difference is that good institutions cover all the needs of their students, like my university provides us free licensed software.
If you’re not in such an institution, then you may still be eligible for the student discount which is only $30 for Windows 7 Ultimate. That is only Rs. 2500. Or you can still get it for free by participating in Microsoft’s DreamSpark, BizSpark or WebSpark programs.
Still not getting anything? then how about getting a membership with IEEE or ACM, which also entitle you to 5 licensed copies of Windows and tons of other software for free. But perhaps the best possible way to get Windows 7 is buy a computer with the OS pre-installed.
Oh and if you want to go the extra mile, here is the price list of Genuine Windows 7 in Pakistan compared to International prices.
Clearly Microsoft offers Windows at much lower rates compared to rest of the world. And when you think about it, you’ll be using Windows 7 for at least the next 3 years, so Windows 7 Professional would be costing you about Rs. 334 per month. That is pretty cheap if you ask me.
Even though I clearly stated that please don’t post any hate comments without any relation to Windows 7, I still know there would be a lot of those. But still I would like to conclude the article by providing a simple solution.
If you have a lot of money to spend, and don’t want to get a lot out of your computer, like Gaming or Software development etc, then Get a Mac. It is as simple as that. Mac OS X is great for simple everyday use plus it gets even better when it comes to content creation (stuff like Photoshop etc).
If you don’t want to spend a lot, or want freedom with your hardware choices etc, then go for a Windows PC. You can build one and get Windows 7 for free or what ever rate applies to you. Going down this path would mean you could do everything a computer is meant to do, and perhaps more.
The last option (though still good) is for those people who really can’t afford to buy Windows. They are those people who buy second hand computers, basic cell phones, and don’t spend a lot of money simply because they can’t afford to. Then these people are best suited for Linux. Get yourself a copy of Ubuntu/Kubuntu and enjoy your life. Sure there would be problems with stuff (like Flash Player or Adobe AIR for example) but then again, nothing in life comes truly free. You have to pay up somehow. And when you are eligible to get a discount on Windows, please do so. It doesn’t hurt to have dual boot right?
There will actually be a fourth category too. These are the people who would still pirate their OS. Buy a Rs. 35 DVD or download it off a torrent or usenet network. These would be those people who are losers in their lives, and enjoy bringing misery to other people too. And by the way, if you are one of those, I just proved my point. You wasted about 20 minutes of your worthless time reading this article.
And now the comments begin
Again I’d say, please try to post civilized comments based on actual facts. Not speculation. Try Windows 7 before complaining. And still I will try to answer all the questions raised by you people. Thanks.
Writer is a Computer Engineering graduate based in Lahore, Pakistan. He is a technologist and a professional developer with a keen interest in emerging technologies. He also authors The Technopath.