Windows 7 and Lenovo ThinkVantage Technologies

You're going to want Windows 7. It's that good. The more I use it, the more I like it.  I won't rehash it here.  You can read about it in innumerable places. You don't even have to read about it. You can download the beta and try it for yourself. Though Microsoft has officially ended the beta 2 download period, BitTorrent is your friend. Like many other utilities vendors, Lenovo has to contend with each version of Windows having more built into the core operating system. When creating our ThinkVantage Technologies (programs like Access Connections, ImageUltra Builder, and Rescue and Recovery), we've used an "embrace and extend" methodology. In other words, we would take a basic function present in Windows and add our own additional capabilities and features on top of it. As an example, let me use our connectivity manager, Access Connections. If you are not familiar with this tool, Access Connections is designed to make connecting to all types of networks easy and painless, whether they are wired or wireless. In the early days of Windows (2000), this tool was absolutely needed. Windows was pretty terrible about configuring Wi-Fi connections, especially when a network needed advanced security. As Windows has evolved, it has gradually gained more flexibility and power. Functions that used to require separate drivers or programs are now built into the core operating system. A great example of this is Cisco's CCX extensions for logging onto secure corporate networks. Correspondingly, Access Connections has evolved as well. With Windows Vista, for example, we actually use Windows architecture under the covers to handle most Wi-Fi related connectivity. Yet, Access Connection's value as a utility still persists because there are things that Windows cannot do. These range from handling WWAN connections to setting browser default pages to making sure that when you are at home, you don't accidentally print to your office printer. On top of this, Access Connections and the other ThinkVantage tools add a degree of centralized control that is demanded by IT administrators and not available with Windows. Besides our flagship ThinkVantage Technologies, we include a whole host of secondary utilities. These include things like Lenovo Presentation Director, Easy Eject, Screen Magnifier, and our GPS application. As Windows becomes more capable, it continues to encroach on these utilities. And this is what brings us to a crossroads. Though we are not dependent on any one of these tools or utilities for our livelihood, in aggregate, they form part of the Lenovo value proposition. As we start to develop for Windows 7, our teams constantly have to determine which tools to continue to spend scarce development resources on. Let me give you another example by talking about Lenovo Rescue and Recovery. In addition to providing backup and recovery functions, it also is one of the few OEM vendor supplied utilities to install another operating system below your primary operating system. Even if your copy of Windows cannot boot, by pressing our blue ThinkVantage button (or F11 on your keyboard), you can get up and running quickly. Prior to Windows 7, if your operating system would not boot, Windows had limited recovery tools that could sometimes help you recover, provided that you had access to a Windows CD. This proved impractical for many people. Who among us can lay hands on a Windows install CD these days? As vendors, we do not make it any easier considering that the industry has long given up supplying Microsoft Windows CDs in favor of vendor-branded recovery CDs. Windows 7 installs and can boot to Windows PE, obviating the need to have physical CD media to start a recovery. In addition, it introduces full image based disk backup, which has been a clear differentiator for our Rescue and Recovery program over Windows functionality for some time. Once Windows 7 ships, Lenovo will still have a lot of functionality over and above what is included with Windows, especially if you are a business user. Even if you are a individual user, we have more "dials and knobs" to allow you to customize your backup and recovery experience. Yet, our dilemma is clear – at what point does Windows offer "good enough" functionality that we should abandon our own tools and focus on something else? Speaking from personal experience, I am wondering if I am going to install Access Connections when I start to use Windows 7. Windows leaps forward in its control of all types of connections, including 3G/cellular connections ,and I've found that 90% of the functionality I need is built in. (If I were a corporate IT department, I'd probably want the additional control and profile versioning functionality built into Access Connections. I'm more of an IT department of one.) With all of that said, If you've tried the Windows 7 beta, are you as excited about it as I am? If you were in charge of our software development team and had to prioritize funding for our ThinkVantage tools and secondary utilities, which ones would you keep? Which ones would you drop? Which of our tools are "almost there," but need another feature or two in order to make them a "killer app" for you?

ThinkVantage tools examples: Access Connections, ImageUltra Builder, Rescue & Recovery, System Migration Assistant, Password Manager, Productivity Center, System Update. You can learn about all of them on Secondary utilities include: Presentation Director, Power Manager, Easy Eject, Screen Magnifier, GPS utility, Message Center