Zack Whittaker posted some shots tonight of the Windows 7 user interface. Needless to say, I couldn't get myself to worked up over them. Apparently somebody did since the post was yanked shortly, but don't worry...you weren't missing much that you haven't seen in Windows Vista.
As I traded barbs across the pond with that wacky Brit tonight, though, Zack actually asked a very good question, though. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially he wanted my take on Windows 7 in a market dominated by XP and hardware that already struggles to support Vista. As he put it, "D'ya think it's going to be XP all the way - even after the lifecycle stops?"
The short answer is, "it depends." I see serious adoption of Windows 7 at the university level. Fellow blogger Marc Wagner noted that Indiana University rolled out Vista this summer and many people expect Windows 7 to have less aggressive hardware requirements than Vista (I don't happen to be among the people with that expectation; a precedent for bloat has certainly been set by the Redmond gods).
However, regardless of hardware requirements, it's clear than many universities (and businesses, for that matter), will be skipping Vista. As Microsoft builds anticipation for Windows 7, there simply isn't any incentive to adopt Vista, even if Windows 7 will only be incrementally better. Not that Vista is horrible, by the way. It's just not all that great. As I buy new hardware, I'm rolling it out and Vista is working fine, but, again, there simply is not any real incentive to upgrade existing hardware.
By the time Windows 7 reaches us, however, Windows XP will be so long in the tooth that colleges and universities will need to make a move if they plan to stick with a Windows platform (and most will). So Windows 7 it will be.
I don't see this same phenomenon occurring in the K-12 market, though. There will be schools that hang onto their XP machines until they die, just as many schools did with their Windows 98 computers. There will be others who will roll out Windows 7 as they purchase new hardware, just as they did with Vista. However, if Vista has done nothing else, it has at least inspired cash-strapped markets like K-12 to consider alternatives.
Is it worth paying a premium for hardware running OS X (hold the flames - we all know this is just because Apple doesn't do low-end machines)? Is it worth moving to open source? A lot of European and South American schools have certainly moved in the latter direction.
Windows isn't going away anytime soon, but I simply don't see widespread adoption of Windows 7 in K-12 when Vista has largely been a flop, both with educational institutions and with corporations. Ubuntu and all of its Linux brethren are, after all, free and available right now. When will we see Windows 7 and how long do we need to use Vista or keep XP plugging along?