Is holding out for Windows 7 a gamble worth taking?

With more and more information about Windows 7 coming out almost daily, I'm getting increasing numbers of emails from people wanting my advice on whether they should skip Vista and hold out for Windows 7 or make the plunge now and make plans relating to "7" once the OS is out.

With more and more information about Windows 7 coming out almost daily, I'm getting increasing numbers of emails from people wanting my advice on whether they should skip Vista and hold out for Windows 7 or make the plunge now and make plans relating to "7" once the OS is out.

Having discussed this issue with several people I've come to a conclusion that it's far too early to make any plans relating to Windows 7 and your OS migration plans should be based solely on Vista in the here and now and not on what Windows 7 might or might not bring.

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The first thing that you need to bear in mind is that there no firm date for the release of Windows 7. The ballpark guess range is between late 2009 or early 2010. Pundits are carpet-bombing that range with guesses as to when we'll see Windows 7, but remember that they are all guesses right now. And there's even no guarantee that the 7's release date won't fall outside of this range. After all, quality of the release will count more than ever. Peter Bright of Ars Technica put it well:

Though Microsoft's customers clearly won't tolerate a kind of Duke Nukem Forever "when it's finished" approach—the software does need to ship, after all—a first-rate Windows 7 in the first half of 2010 will make customers much happier than another release with Vista-like teething trouble in late 2009.

BINGO! Microsoft can't afford to botch the release of Windows 7 in the way it did with Vista. If Microsoft doesn't get plenty of "WOW!" right from the start with Windows 7, the Redmond giant has a big problem on its hands.

But here's my worry in advising people to skip over Vista and wait for Windows 7. Vista, as it stands now with SP1, is a pretty decent version of Windows. Compatibility issues have largely been fixed (if you hardware of software isn't supported by now, it's unlikely to be supported), performance is on-par or marginally better than XP (depending on the benchmark that you choose), and reliability is light-years ahead of what it was when Vista was first released. But these fixes took months. What if Windows 7 is plagued by the same issues and that OS takes a year to fix? Taking the most optimistic release date that we have (mid-2009) that would mean that Windows 7 wouldn't be "ready" until mid-2010. This has several implications:

  • That makes XP awfully old (9 years old).
  • It's likely that hardware/software support will be getting patchy.
  • The abandonment of support for XP by your vendor would likely push you into having to come up with a migration plan, rather than come up with one at your own speed.

Jump or be pushed? Which is best? You decide!

Another comment I reading and hearing a lot from some XP users is that XP will be the last version of Windows they will run and when they switch, it'll be to a Linux distro. That's interesting because I get a lot of email from people who have switched to Mac, but very few from people who have shifted to Linux - all talk, no action perhaps? If you're "thinking" of making a switch from Windows then it's time to stop "thinking" and start making some real plans. Download distros, get to grips with the OS, find Linux replacements for your Windows software, test hardware compatibility ...

Personally, I'm taking a cautious approach to Windows 7. In fact, I'm staying that way until I see RC code.

Thoughts?

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