Foley on Microsoft

2009: The Year of Windows 7?

Consumers have good reason to be excited about the next OS -- and Microsoft has good reason to ship it sooner rather than later.

If you believe the leaked schedules, whispered timelines and mounting anecdotal and factual evidence, 2009 should be the year of Windows 7.

Yes, I realize that Microsoft officials are still citing their "three years after Windows Vista went generally available" ship date as the target for Windows 7. But any Windows watcher worth his or her salt knows that "early 2010" is a more likely timeframe for Redmond to ship the product.

Microsoft has every incentive to get Windows 7 to market sooner rather than later. Among them:

  • Vista isn't getting the corporate (or consumer) buy-in Microsoft hoped for. Many businesses are planning to skip Vista and go straight from Windows XP to Windows 7.
  • No matter how many marketing campaigns Microsoft launches to offset the negative public perceptions of Vista, nothing seems to undo the damage that's been done.
  • First public impressions of Windows 7 from those playing with the pre-beta bits are quite positive. This, despite the fact that the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) build of Windows 7 is missing the flashy "Superbar" bits Microsoft showed off at the conference in late October.
  • In spite of Microsoft's insistence to the contrary, Windows 7 is not a major release. It's a lot of fit-and-finish improvements that will make Windows 7 the product that Vista should have been. That said, the ability of Windows 7 to support up to 256 processors is impressive.
  • As Microsoft experienced with Vista, a January launch of a new OS is pointless. It needs to launch in the second or third quarter so it hits the back-to-school and holiday PC market.

From what sources tell me, Microsoft intends to deliver a public, feature-complete beta 1 of Windows 7 by the end of this month. I hear there's no planned beta 2 of Windows 7. The product is slated to go from beta 1 to Release Candidate to released to manufacturing (RTM). Increasingly, it appears Microsoft has a real chance to RTM Windows 7 by mid-2009.

With all this momentum, why am I questioning whether 2009 will be the year of Windows 7? There are still a couple of potential hurdles that could delay this fast-moving train. There's the chance a showstopper bug could rear its ugly head in the eleventh hour of testing, but there are a couple of bigger worries:

  • Google. Google is, no doubt, lining up its antitrust arguments about Windows 7 right now. Possible problem areas include integrated desktop search and more tightly integrated Windows Live services. Windows 7 is designed to deliver the most up-to-date mail, photo, calendar and other service bits via Windows Live. Microsoft is working to win over PC makers so they'll preload the Windows Live Wave 3 bits on new PCs. Do you think Google-especially an angry Google, if its ad deal with Yahoo! is blown up by the 'Softies-is going to take this lying down? Get ready for more European Union antitrust suits, as well.
  • PC makers. One reason Microsoft didn't launch Vista at the end of 2006-even though it was RTM in early November-was because some of the company's OEM partners weren't ready for it. Some of its biggest PC-maker allies couldn't get the final bits from RTM to pre-load on new machines in less than two months, so Microsoft delayed its Vista launch until late January 2007. Depending on when Microsoft RTMs Windows 7, a similar situation could arise. If Microsoft RTMs Windows 7 too close to back-to-school time or the holiday preload-cutoff dates, the company might have to "pull a Vista" and push back its Windows 7 product launch.

What do you think? Will Microsoft release Windows 7 at the optimal time to head off these potential problems at the pass? Do you expect to see Windows 7 RTM in 2009, or do you care if it slips into 2010?

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:

Sat, Mar 28, 2009 Anonymous Anonymous

wid 7

Tue, Dec 23, 2008 SCOTT B. NORTHWEST PA

I'll have to agree with Sid Cook-the last point, 'two year extension' should be considered by MS-C ; I'm also a novice to boot-but my observation with the front end auto- loading/launch of All the programs ,etc is not all needed---there is need for a tiered user on/off-exit menu-- maybe with a couple application/ programs grouped by the user-with the rest completely 'off' --the Task Manager Processes are they all needed all at once?
--can they be staged in?--what's bear bones and what's overload--can the user choose from a scale/type to balance use over excess? Which can be left dormant until needed. (this could be green thinking also.) Can mother boards be designed to be partially 'off' untill more Applications are reqested by the user?

Tue, Dec 23, 2008 LeadingTheNet Anonymous

Well I am using a build of Windows 7 that has the Superbar and all the features shown at PDC (build 6965) and I can tell you. For a pre-beta/beta it behaves just like a final release. I haven't found a single bug until now. Well I think that they will release it in mid-2009 because they have what...

Sun, Dec 7, 2008 Sid Cook St Louis

The main reason that home users and corporate users have not deployed Vista is its hardware requirements. But also it is from the negative response from people and companies that ether bought a new computer or installed it on existing computers.

It would not work with most equipment like routers, printers, scanners, camera’s ect. Most large and small companies would not consider buying all new computers and replace existing equipment like printers ECT; just to run Vista.
Windows 7 is built from Vista; and with the way the economy is now I do not see it doing any better.

Why should a company buy an operating system that requires them to buy more expensive equipment when XP is now running so well?
I have seen more companies looking at free software like Linux or software that is a lot cheaper like Red hat.
I have a small network at home and have tried Vista on two of my systems, both are not dogs.
The first one has a 3.1 GHz processor and two Gigs of memory. Both have Nividia video cards with 512 memory.
Vista took up all the memory for up to five minutes and if I loaded any games with a lot of video I just gave up.

I will look at Windows 7 but do not have any high hopes for it.
Why should I buy some thing that requires me to ether upgrade my existing hardware or buy new stuff? We have been in a recession for a long time and most companies are laying off people and not buying any thing.
Microsoft should take advantage of this by giving XP a two year extension, just to let the economy improve so people feel better about buying new things.

Wed, Nov 26, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous

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