Windows 7 is the best-selling version of the operating system ever, according to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
The software maker has sold more than 60 million licences for it, and the demand helped lift Microsoft's second-quarter results. That may not be down to consumers alone — Forrester Research figures indicate that 66 percent of companies plan to upgrade to Windows 7.
The question is, what should Microsoft should do next with Windows? There are still plenty of challenges for the operating system, with Google's cloud-focused Chrome OS on the horizon, and the first Android-powered smartbooks expected to arrive soon. In addition, the next generation of web technologies will give browser applications a lot more power.
ZDNet UK asked Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, how Windows 8 will compete, given the cloud and the growing enthusiasm for lightweight smartphone operating systems on netbooks.
Sinofsky has been credited with turning Windows development around after Vista, and with instituting a new, more rigorous engineering process at Microsoft. We asked him where he thinks Windows will be going in 2010 and beyond.
Q: Will the success of Windows 7 be a problem for Windows 8? How do you make sure you do something that moves the state of the art forward?
A: There's no answer to that. That's what we do, and that's the work we're going to do. It's the balance between solving problems and innovation.
There are rumours of a very rigid masterplan for Windows 8, with no more unsponsored projects allowed and everything dictated from the top.
That wouldn't be how I would work. In fact, nothing could be less... The very last thing great product development needs is one person saying how it should be. If you think about the complexity of our industry, there isn't one person who could do all of this.
Are Android and Chrome OS making you change the way you think about what an operating system is? What makes sense in the age of the cloud, versus the full-powered operating system that's the traditional Windows approach?
There's no SD [card] slot in the cloud. I was looking at the cloud, and there's no print button on the cloud. There's a lot of things missing.
Think about the analogy I've made before where Windows is the movie theatre, and it's the software that is the movies. The movie theatre has a set of things it has to do. No matter what technology is used to build movies, and no matter what the movies do, you still need to sit down and have air-conditioning and snacks.
There's a whole bunch of stuff in your PC, and it's not clear which of those you give up when you switch to the cloud. That's the equivalence: if you want to use a cloud-based app, you still need a keyboard, you still need graphics.
And it turns out those things are all really important for enjoying software. When you think about how...