Foley on Microsoft

Windows Vista Down; On to Windows 7?

Looking ahead to a whole new breed of Windows.

The prolonged, three-month launch of Windows Vista is finally history. Microsoft delivered Vista to business users on Nov. 30 and to the rest of the world on Jan. 29. So now it's on to the "Fiji" and "Vienna" releases about which we've been hearing for months, right?


Future versions of Windows are going to bear little resemblance to what we've heard so far officially -- and unofficially -- from Microsoft and the individuals who love to leak tidbits about the company. In fact, according to one of my reliable tipsters, the new and reorganized Windows organization, led by Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky, is trying to wean folks completely off the Windows code names they have been using for the next couple of releases of Windows.

Welcome to the brave new world of "Windows 7" (a boringly named complement to "Office 14," the successor to Office 2007).

(This column, by the way, is purely speculative, a cobbling together of source information and my own hunches. Microsoft won't talk about Windows futures right now, in part because the company doesn't want to take the focus off Vista, and also because the Windows organization is still trying to sort itself out. Company officials aren't even venturing to talk about when Vista Service Pack 1 will hit.)

Whatever Windows 7 ends up looking like, there's one thing I'm counting on -- it's not going to be developed, tested or marketed anything like its recent Windows predecessors. It's likely to be less ambitious in its goals, feature set and its development, be more modular in its design and, possibly, more role-based in its delivery. In general, watch for more incremental Windows releases, supplemented by more feature pack/service pack updates. This will be coupled with more new components released as services.

Given that Sinofsky, head of Windows and Windows Live engineering, most recently lorded over the development of Microsoft Office, it seems natural to look for clues about Windows in not only the Windows history archives, but maybe especially in the Office annals.

Here's what we know about Vista: It's too big, still hampered by internal code dependencies and was concocted by way too many cooks. Because of this, the product kept slipping and shedding features, missed the holiday buying season and was released to market before many Microsoft partners (and Microsoft product teams) had delivered Vista-compatible drivers and applications.

Here's what we know about Office: New versions ship every two years, like clockwork. If the development process is messy and features/functionality are cut, no one seems to know or care. Even when it includes controversial new features -- like Office 2007's ribbon user interface and the new XML file format that require a downloadable patch in order for users of older versions to read Office 2007 Open-XML-formatted documents. Nevertheless, Office still comes out smelling like a rose.

What can Microsoft do to make Windows more like Office?

  • Don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't over-promise.
  • Trim (or, more accurately, ax) the size of the team developing the product.
  • Stop talking about unreleased products. Don't share publicly a list of promised features/functionality before the product is totally locked down. Punish transgressors both inside and outside the company.
  • Cease sharing any information about delivery milestones or dates. Never talking about ship targets means never having to say you're sorry.
  • Ban historical references. Anyone mentioning "WinFS," "Cairo" or "Hailstorm" gets put in the penalty box.

Microsoft is currently facing some of the same problems with Vista it has been experiencing with Office for a couple of years now. The biggest competitor to Vista isn't Mac OS X or Linux -- it's Windows XP. Consequently, the Windows team increasingly finds itself in the same straits as the Office folks -- namely, it needs to convince users who don't really need a brand new release of Windows that they do. Let's see what Sinofsky & Co. come up with, beyond making new, desirable features available only to customers who sign multi-year volume- licensing contracts.

What are you expecting from Windows 7 and beyond? Write me at

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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Reader Comments:

Wed, May 20, 2009 abujamaal male

i wont to chanche my windows vista to windows 7

Mon, Apr 27, 2009 Anonymous Anonymous

Very nice site!

Wed, Oct 29, 2008 joe Anonymous

they can come up with whatever name they want. I don't care, but I do want to have a good Operating system, that I can do my work without any major problems. miner problems are ok, its usuall...

Tue, Sep 23, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous


Fri, Sep 12, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous


Wed, Aug 20, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous


Mon, Jan 28, 2008 Sean Anonymous

Who the hell cares what the next Windows is called? If it works better than XP then people will buy it and use it (forget Vista - why do you think resellers are still offering "Downgrade to XP from Vista" options through Jan 2009?). It could have the "best" name in the world and no one will care about it if it doesn't perform.

Sun, Jan 27, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous

Windows 7 (7 Service Packs needed) OMG

Tue, Jan 8, 2008 x3haloed Anonymous

lol @ rogerj
I really don't think this journalist knows what she is talking about.

Thu, Sep 6, 2007 Anonymous Anonymous

ok hold up, why in the world do they need to change the code names all the freeking time it gets annoying the original code names usually sound pretty damn good and as far as "Longhorn" and "Black Comb" which was changed to "Vienna" those all would have been damn good names for operating systems now they are going back to the number system, dull going back to the days of old, bringing back the dos command prompt, not so bad command prompts can be a powerful tool but let me guess you guys are all going to go strictly back to 16bit applications wah wah wah, lets not get too far ahead of ourselves or should i say behind yes behind your going back to old windows 3.1 that had limited power and functionality and was boring as hell and no support for newer technology or upgrades, let me guess your also going to go to the old File Allocation Table days and the old hard drives you had to do low level formats on ever six months or so, so why go back in time on something you shouldnt go back in time, start fresh and new make a powerful operating system but stop messing around with the codenames, it gets confussing when you keep changing them keep them to one codename, keep New Technology File System stay with the new and expand on the new use fresh code stop using the old code that is obsolete, what next still using punch cards to program computers

Tue, Aug 28, 2007 Anonymous Anonymous

Microsoft should have a little more taste like Apple. Microsoft should make their name a word or something, version numbers can be used, but the downside is that if Microsoft were to use version numbers, it would all be very mixed up!!lol!! Coz' lots of progams ALREADY use Numbers. If I were to be a person from microsoft, i would replace the name Windows 7 with.... Windows Alpha..

Fri, Aug 3, 2007 anonymous Anonymous

I consider there are no overpromise on software and computer hardware and tech what so ever.
I enjoy all the statements and wishes of any kind for any sofware coming for any furture computers.
I think companys can them self manage their staff abolutely best.
Never stop leaking product information.
Tell me all deliverymilestones and possible dates.
History and historical milstones are must for me, an absolute hit must.

Sun, Jul 29, 2007 Angelus spain

Redmond's people have right now the oportunity to learn about this recent experience. The new OS should be coded from scratch, giving priority to a 64 bit solution and letting compatibility to previous versions and 32 bit software to the virtualization, even embedded in the OS (new multicore processors offer support to virtualization). Comparisons are hateful but in this sense, they should take a look to MacOSX: a break to the past. Talking about security, Unix should be a mirror to look at.
I would like to finish saying that the new windows SHOULD be a light weigh OS. 700MB of RAM used only by the OS is a piece of nonsense. In this way I like the idea of modularity in the OS..

Tue, Jul 24, 2007 Anonymous Anonymous


Sat, Jul 21, 2007 The Man from Oregon I said it

I'm thinking they could name the next batch of releases after cartoon characters. For instance, the next OS could be called the "Elmer Fud". Office could be called "Tazmanian Devil".

Fri, Jul 20, 2007 sunil uk

it time for a revolution in what an operating system can do and I agree that the dos/windowsx86 codebase is well past due for retirement. For sure compatibility is needed so that users dont lose their investment in the Windows brand, but it shouldnt stifle the creation of an os that is ready for the demands of the next decade where the computer will be truly mobile and truly personal.

Thu, Apr 5, 2007 Josep Anonymous

I seriously think that Microsoft's dominanance in operating systems is going to end in, say 4 or 5 years time. Windows is really too expensive for what it offers

Thu, Feb 15, 2007 deez hawaii

i think microsoft needs to start from scratch and develop a solid operating system instead of continuing to add to an already cracked foundation. as far as using less people on the development team, i disagree. i think the real problem here is the project managers trying to create a cosmetic operating system vs a functional one.

Mon, Feb 12, 2007 Pierre Madison, WI

I prefer version numbers instead of by year.

Thu, Feb 8, 2007 RogerJ Oakland, CA

Mary Jo,

"Here's what we know about Office: New versions ship every two years, like clockwork."

Office 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007: Looks like sand in the clockword to me.


Sun, Feb 4, 2007 Andre Netherlands

Yeah, I agree, just back to the version numbers, and I guess the same about CPUs. Ever since the Pentium and Windows 95, it's all getting confusing.

Tue, Jan 30, 2007 Stucco Madison, WI

I personally miss the old days of version and revision numbers in the names of products.

Looking at ver 4.5.2 you knew exaclty where it stood compared to 4.4. Trying to teach the humble masses that 95 comes after 3 and 4 comes after 95 and 98 is just 95 with some fixes. Followed by 98 2nd edition. Then throw in Millenium, which is not the same as 2000, which came later. Then XP is more then 2000, but 2003 is more then 2000, but not equal to XP.

Gets a little confusing. I say bring back the version numbers.

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