For the last few days I’ve been running Windows 7 on my Macbook Air to see how well it ran. I bootcamp’d the Air as soon as I got it – I use too many Windows apps to run OS X alone – but usually run through the Parallels virtualisation solution.
For the most part running Win7 full time on the Mac hardware has been a pleasant experience, though not without a few hitches.
Whoever wrote the Windows hardware drivers that Apple ship with bootcamp needs to take a long hard look at themselves. The touchpad drivers in particular are awful. Gone is the easy accuracy you get from either OS X, or any other Windows laptop that matter. Two-finger scrolling is clunky, the detection of two-finger touches is often mis-interpreted as a right-click for some reason.
You also have to remember to take your finger off the touchpad for longer than feels natural when clicking and then moving the curser. If you don’t the driver thinks you’re dragging whatever you clicked, so you end up dragging files/tabs and selecting text you don’t want. I know these things work well in Windows itself because I use a touch enabled Win7 tablet for my work laptop.
Quite how Apple got these things so wrong, or managed to completely ignore all the other touch gestures Win7 supports natively, is anyone’s guess. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that bootcamp allows you to boot Windows natively on the Mac. It’s just such a shame that the shoddy drivers compromise the user experience so badly. Why should such great hardware suffer from such basic problems?
With Apple offering hardware which, in my experience at least, is significantly better than the current PC manufactures, I do wonder if Microsoft might step in to fix the problems themselves in Windows 8. It might sound like an odd thing for them to do, but there are a few reasons why I think it would make sense.
1) Mac users running Windows on their Mac with bootcamp are not experiencing Windows at its best. With such obvious issues Windows is actually frustrating to use even at a basic level, something it’s not on a normal PC.
2) Windows 8 with it’s new touch interface may actually be better suited to Mac’s with their large installed user base of multi-touch touchpads than PC’s – at least at first. MS will want hardware that can make use of the new OS and show it off. With so many existing multi-touch enabled Mac’s in peoples homes I doubt they’ll want that experience to be at the mercy of the driver engineers in Cupertino.
- If MS doesn’t step up to the mark, there may be some other options. Touchpad++ is a driver written by Vladmir Plenskiy which aims to provide a better touchpad experience in Windows. He also offers a utility called Powerplan7 which (as well as some power management tools) offer Macbook users a simple tray icon that can enable and disable the WiFi and Bluetooth adapters. Useful stuff.