Having just downloaded the public beta of Windows 7, I installed the 32 bit version into VirtualBox 2.1 on my Macbook. (Note that to get networking to work, you need to change the adaptor type.) The first thing that caught my eye is that the look and feel is quite similar to that of Windows Vista. Very minor differences exist, but nothing that jumps out too much (other than the taskbar) upon first look. The taskbar feels a bit larger by default than in prior versions of Windows, and behaves similar to how OS X’s dock works. That is, the former ‘Quick Launch’ bar has been integrated into the taskbar. Any open windows of programs in the ‘Quick Launch’ area are now accessible by clicking that program’s icon. Any other open programs are put in to the right of those.
When I was first brought to the desktop after install, a notification bubble appeared telling me that a message was available. That message took me to the “Action Center” to inform me that I needed antivirus software. I can’t imagine how a normal user would feel being told that they still have more they must do after the install process had completed. The action center offered a link to a webpage with links to various different antivirus vendors with versions compatible with Windows 7 Beta. These were each either preview versions or otherwise non-free products. The ones that were preview versions are from vendors that will surely charge for the final product. Either way, users are going to have to dish out extra cash beyond the initial cost of the operating system.
After only a few minutes of playing around, I will be sticking to Ubuntu (and OS X). There is nothing convenient about having to go out and find extra software immediately after a system install in order to do nearly anything. Needless to say, I will continue to use Windows 7 to get a feel for what I will most likely end up having to support.