The pace of change in the computer industry continues to speed up, sort of. A couple years ago there was a lot of talk about Vista, Microsoft's replacement for Windows XP. And frankly, we weren't too kind to Microsoft because the new operating system - with all its changes - made a lot of the software farmers run worthless.
In fact, Vista was such a challenge for the company that it didn't drop Windows XP off the grid because too many business users (including yours truly) would not switch to the new operating system. Microsoft is moving ahead, apparently listening to consumers, and there's a new operating system coming our way in a couple weeks.
After October 22, you'll be able to buy Windows 7 - the latest incarnation of the company's core product line. The company has kept in mind that a lot of Windows users never moved toward Vista and the aim is to keep the best of XP and get top tools from Vista there too. In addition, they've added a lot of features that most of us are using from third-party providers.
For example, there's a 'desktop search' feature that can search your computer for documents and Web pages. Many of us are doing that now with Google Desktop, with Windows 7, that functionality is included.
If you're buying a new computer this fall - the usual buying time - make sure it's Windows 7 compatible. If you can wait for a couple weeks, buy one that has Windows 7 already installed. If you don't need a new computer for awhile, wait. New operating systems have great features, but they also often come with interesting surprises.
The computer trade press are a lot higher on Windows 7 than they were on Vista, which is a good sign. But if you're doing fine with Windows XP (or even Vista) you could wait for a bit to make sure it's "all good."
If you must buy a new computer, you're good to go after October 22. The new machines should come installed with Windows 7. You'll probably want to include Office 2007 in your purchase to cinch the deal and have the most compatible software available for your use.
For those of you with newer computers thinking about an upgrade, you can check compatibility bo going to Windows Upgrade Advisor. This downloadable tool will check out your computer set up and give you information you might need before moving to Windows 7 - like whether or not you need a new printer driver.
For those of you thinking of upgrading, the reported cost of the 'Professional' version (I don't believe the Home Premium version is right for a farm business), is $199.99. For the Ultimate edition the price is $219.99. Those are the upgrade prices for machines that already have Vista running. Microsoft says the Windows 7 will work on any machine that already runs Vista.
For the non-upgrade price, add $100 to those two price points. Moving to Windows 7 will be your decision. You can check with the software providers you use for precision ag and accounting to see if their tools are already compatible. If you're using Office, count on the 2007 working just fine with Windows 7.
You can learn more by taking the Windows Tour.
For the Apple fans among my readership - Snow Leopard, which came out earlier this year, appears to be a very powerful update to the operating system. Although, talk of Apple adding anti-virus protection has some users worried, most reviewers say this new upgrade is significant and worthwhile. If you haven't moved up, you might consider it in the near future.