While most people hear about the Linux and Apple fanatics in the news and various reports, very, very few times is the subject of Windows Fanatics brought up. Oh yes, they do exist. Just as Linux Fanatics and Apple Fanatics can't be told left from right, Windows fanatics shove their noses in a book and automatically declare everybody else wrong, clueless, idiot, and so on. I got a good dose of this when correcting somebody recently that their Windows 7 upgrade... wasn't an upgrade. It was a crossgrade.
Thing is, upgrades don't actually exist in the Windows world. They don't. This is not an opinion. This is not up for an argument. Windows Upgrades do not exist.
It is, however, possible to crossgrade across different versions of Windows. What you can do is trade the problems of one Windows system for the problems of another Windows system. In Windows 95 you traded the small size of the Operating System for increased bulk. I don't mean just amount of space taken up on the hard-drive, I mean the performance of the OS as well. Windows 98 didn't have high system requirements... but it couldn't run on some really low end computers that Win95 could.
From Windows 98 to Windows ME, Users traded off relative stability for better media controls. From Windows ME to 2000, users got better stability, but a server and work-space oriented system. From ME to Xp, users traded off system lightness for ever larger amounts of bloat. From 2000 to Xp, users traded in service pack numbers for what was the exact same operating system. From Xp to Vista, users once again traded in performance for bloat. Then from Vista to Windows 7, once again, it's the exact same operating system... but users trade off even more freedoms of use. Seriously, read the Windows 7 Licensing agreement. Nobody is purchasing the software, everybody is renting it.
Now, in being correct, this also means you'll find crossgrades in Linux and Apple. OF course, you might be thinking I'm going to say that converting from Gnome to KDE is an upgrade... and you might think that replacing that BSD based Unix with a Linux based system is an upgrade... but they are not. Those are crossgrades. It's trading off one interface for another, one system for another, personal opinions aside.
Apple, strangely enough, gets this aspect of computers. They made fun of it on a recent ad. Everything that's happening with Windows 7 now has pretty much been promised before. Lets be honest here, Microsoft's not exactly known for corporate reliability now... are they?
Thus I maintain that the only way you can upgrade from a Windows system is to get a Non-Microsoft Operating System.
Ignoring the social factors, such as licenses and freedom to use, just think about things from a performance and hardware perspective. If you around the Top500 supercomputer users, you'll find that from a performance standpoint, Windows doesn't compete with Linux on a processing basis. If you ask around Netcraft about servers, you'll find that Microsoft's not competitive when it comes to putting webpages online. If you ask the London Stock Exchange what they thought about Windows, you'll find that one of the worlds large financial institutions gave it a failing grade. If you ask Infinity Ward about Servers, you'll quickly find that rather than face the embarrassing question of why they use Linux servers and won't produce a Linux client, they just took dedicated servers away. No, stop laughing. I've brought this up before. Virtually all game developers and publishers don't use Windows to host multiplayer games. The Windows platform just isn't up to the task. So, they use Linux. But they won't produce a Linux client.
Even though, as Phoronix found out, games running under Linux are generally faster than the same code running under windows. And no link this time, you'll have to go dig it up yourself.
Then there is the security aspect. People can say all they want about the number of holes found and patched in various operating systems. What actually matters is the number of virus's that actually make it into the wild. Once again, Windows comes up short. The list of known virus's in the wild lists into the hundreds each day, while Linux, BSD, OSX, and pretty much everybody else chugs along peacefully.
Then there's the price aspect. Typically in the past Apple's were much more expensive options than a white-box Windows computer. If you want to buy a good Apple with a decent graphics card, be prepared to shell out some cash. That being said, Apple's most recent OS is just $29.00. Microsoft's entry starts at $300 if you were to buy just the entry level version outright. Course, that's not exactly fair to Apple is it, since you can only (theoretically), install Snow Leopard onto a pre-existing OSX install. The Home Premium Upgrade is $119, and that's still not being fair to Apple since it's OS doesn't come in a limited edition. If you want the Windows 7 Ultimate Upgrade, the equivalent of what Snow Leopard is, you'd be looking at a massive $319 charge to get it retail.
So, once again, it's not really an upgrade there either. Of course, the pricing is intentional. Microsoft doesn't want people buying copies of Windows 7 to put on existing computers. Microsoft wants people to buy new computers with copies of Windows 7 pre-loaded.
Now, I could go on, but at this point it's be like taking a Mac-Truck and putting it through an already burnt down building. From all perspectives, Windows 7 isn't an upgrade from previous versions of Windows. It's just another crossgrade. And in comparison to it's competitors?
It's still a downgrade.