Since the first day Microsoft publicly released Windows 7 Beta 1 I've started playing with the new operating system.
Although I was convinced to try the 64-bit version I downloaded both Windows 7 Beta 1 32-bit and 64-bit. First of all I created a virtual machine hosted by VMware Fusion (which is my favorite virtualizer for Mac OS X) with two 2.0 GHz virtual cores, 1 GB of main memory and 64 GB of hard drive.I was truly amazed due to performances which were better than what I experienced with the same virtual machine equipped with Windows Vista SP1 32-bit. After the installation of VMware Tools the configuration was completed. Unfortunately the use of a virtual machine prevents me to try some useful improvements to Aero (my Intel GMA 950 isn't sufficient in a virtual environment) and to completely try some interesting new feature such as HomeGroup.
I had come to the decision to uninstall the useless native Windows XP SP3 installation (sorry tciddaniw we can't play GP4 together any more) and to substitute it with a native Windows 7 Beta 1 installation. Following Apple's guidelines I erased and created a free partition with Boot Camp Assistant and after the insertion of Windows 7 Beta 1 64-bit DVD my Mac restarted. And here we are with the first problem... this isn't the first version of Windows 64-bit I tried to install on my Mac, I tried Windows Vista 64-bit too and it works well (although my Mac doesn't support Windows 64-bit according to Apple). So, which is the problem? The problem is none other then EFI. Windows Vista SP1 64-bit and consequently Windows 7 Beta 1 64-bit introduces full support to UEFI (un update of EFI 1.1 used by Macs) so my Mac stoped asking me which boot method I prefer, UEFI or BIOS (which capabilities are emulated by EFI on Macs); as expected the keyboard wasn't working (this is a problem I already encountered few times) so the installation couldn't precede.
I didn't have the time to play around and to find a solution to this problem so I inserted Windows 7 Beta 32-bit DVD (which doesn't support UEFI) and stated a new installation that worked fine. Windows 7 Beta 1 32-bit was installed in 23 minutes. During the first configuration before making the login my WiFi network was found and both standard sharing and HomeGroup sharing were configured in an instant. Few seconds after the first login Windows Update informed me that 2 new updates were available and in addition 1 updated driver was found (the wired-network card device driver).
The configuration of the operating system is as always simple (I think I know Windows very well) but the Control Panel is always that much "big", only Windows Search permits me to find what I want in an instant; I think it needs a deep revision (I like Mac OS X's System Preferences pane). Talking about new features, I liked playing with the brand new taskbar, which is indeed similar to the dock - I have to admit it - but it introduces an interesting method to switch between applications and windows (surelly applications need to be modified in other to take advantage of this new way to operate - for example, Internet Explorer 8 Beta permits to switch between tabs even from the taskbar, Firefox 3.1 Beta doesn't). Moreover I found useful both Aero Peek and the gestures to manage windows' dimensions and pinning (I love them). I downloaded the Live Suite to try the integration between Live Messenger and jump lists; it's already good but a found a glitch with Flip3D integration, my Live Messenger pictures is shown in Flip3D even if Live Messenger window is closed, that's a bug that needs to be corrected (why can I switch to an window that doesn't exist?). The renewed management of widgets, ops... gadgets, is interesting; no more sidebar (I'm happy) and an invisible grid to ping gadgets, I miss it on my Dashboard on Mac OS X.
So, I've come to a conclusion. I like Windows and I think about Windows Vista as an improvements over Windows XP so Windows 7 is indeed another step further. Windows 7 is faster, simpler and more beautiful than its predecessors, I think I'll it a lot and come back to Windows after using Mac OS X won't be a problem after all. Next step, installing Boot Camp driver to make keyboard and touchpad more usable and to enable BT (I like my new BT full-size mouse).