Microsoft Windows 7 Sooner Rather Than Later

When Bill Gates mentioned in January, rather arbitrarily, that Windows 7 may ship “next year”, a general consensus was that a more reasonable delivery would be 2010. With that in mind, many expected it would then “slip” to 2011, as Microsoft’s deadlines are known to do.

I was, and have been, always of the opinion that Microsoft needed it sooner. I wasn’t alone in this thinking among some of the Microsoft observers at the time, though we felt so for different reasons. 
Now that many months have passed since then, while there are still those that believe Windows 7 (now its official name) is due for 2010, I still think we have a good chance of seeing it next year. Put simply, just as I thought earlier this year, Microsoft needs it as soon as possible. They need to get people believing Vista relief is coming relatively soon. 
And, make no mistake, Windows 7 is Microsoft’s Vista relief. The sooner they sweep Vista under the table as their current flagship OS, the better. 

No, this is not a Vista rant. In all fairness to Microsoft, at this point in time they’re primarily victims of Vista perception. If I bought a new PC today I’d get Vista on it. Today’s hardware runs it better than that of nearly two years ago, most driver support is there now, and initial egregious bugs have been stomped. Today it would appear Vista is better than XP in every way (except on low-end hardware like a netbook). 
But the damage is done. 
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Vista’s initial reception and reaction, even from some of their staunchest supporters in the press, was abysmal. We’re not talking about a couple of bad reviews, or even running 50-50 for and against, we’re talking review after unfavorable review. For months. I was surprised at how few friends Microsoft had in the press those first six months (this was only 18-24 months ago, yet many people seem to have forgotten). 
Microsoft’s silence on the matter didn’t help much. They refused to discuss SP1, even getting to the point where Gates all but pleaded with people not to wait for it. By the time they grudgingly acknowledged its existence, there was a little too much bad blood in many quarters. It didn’t help that early comments about SP1 were that it wouldn’t make much difference in compatibility. Still, that was then, and this is now. 
So, fast forward to where we are now.

  • Microsoft is plugging “Windows”, not “Vista”.
  • Balmer is claiming that Windows 7 will be Vista, only better.
  • They’ve pulled the Mail, Movie Maker, and other “digital lifestyle” apps from Windows 7. This will allow them to deliver the OS as soon as they need to (no timing issues with the rest of the Windows Live suite, which is pursuing a separate delivery path and is in beta).

Frankly, I think these are all sensible and smart moves on MS’s part. The Windows Live suite (which I’m playing with on my XP Pro virtual machine) looks like it will be nice, though it’s a little rough right now, and their Folder Share syncing looks pretty cool (and is free, and works on PCs and Macs). Live Mess I’m less impressed with.
Removing these apps from the OS will allow MS’s OS team to focus on just the OS (which they need to do) while allowing the digital lifestyle apps to be delivered as necessary since they won’t be tied to the actions of the OS team. Sure, this is the same as Apple’s approach with Mac OS X and iLife, but it makes a lot of sense and is smart for MS to go down that path as well.
With the burden of the lifestyle apps lifted, and the expectation set that Windows 7 won’t be some sort of life-changing thing (essentially, it’ll be Vista “fixed”, no matter that in its current incarnation Vista no longer needs as much fixing), I think MS pushing it out the door next year is very possible. Personally, I think it should be a definite and primary Microsoft goal. They need it.