I think there are a great many things for which Microsoft rightly receives abuse (Internet Explorer, Vista, its numerous product SKUs) and others which are wholly unfair (Office 2007, Vista + Service Pack, XP on netbooks) and then there's one where it looks like genuine praise should be handed out: Windows 7.
Today sees the Release Candidate of the next generation OS rolled out to MSDN and TechNet professionals (consumers get it 5 May/via Bittorent now) and there's one very pleasant surprise: the license will last more than year!
That's right, unlike the current beta which expires at the end of August, Windows 7 RC will happily run on a user's machine until 1 June 2010 - a monumentally long trial period for any perspective buyer. Of course there are caveats, the big one being the Release Candidate will not be available for download any more once Windows 7 is RTMed (released to manufacturing). That said it beats the heck out of the usual 30 day trials you'll find attached to most software programmes!
Why such a long grace period? UK Windows Product Manager John Curran explained to me yesterday that it would not only help users to make a truly informed buying decision but that it rewards testers for their feedback during the OS's evaluation period.
Naturally not all is good news though since Curran was also able to confirm to me that the decision was final not to offer Windows XP users an upgrade route to Windows 7 (the architectures are simply too different) and the much heralded XP Mode emulation is definitely for the more expensive professional editions of the OS only.
Interestingly, Curran was more ambiguous when I put it to him that as a gesture of good faith Microsoft should give short changed Vista Ultimate owners either a major discount or free upgrade to Windows 7. For me the lost revenue would be more than made up by the good PR, but perhaps that's me just being optimistic.
Either way, Windows 7 is certainly shaping up to be the best (and most stable) Microsoft platform to date and after using the beta as my primary OS since January I have to say: I wouldn't go back.
Update: Apologies all, I missed out a vital point: there is no upgrade path either from the Beta to the RC or from the RC to the final version. While possible, frustratingly it makes no financial sense for Microsoft to invest in an installation procedure that will never be repeated en masse during Windows 7's lifetime.