Even with Windows Vista's one-year anniversary launch just a week away, all that anyone in the tech-enthusiast community seems to want to talk about is Windows 7 (Except for those who are already sick of hearing about 7, as one Windows user characterized himself in a conversation I had yesterday.)
There are Windows 7 screen shots, Windows 7 videos, Windows 7-Windows Live-integration to-do lists. And of course, there is the infamous Milestone 1 (M1) Windows 7 build out there, with M2 and M3 successors due out later this year, if rumored roadmaps are to be believed.
Some pundits believe Microsoft is trying to stoke the Windows 7 fires to "build excitement" for its next Windows release. I don't think this is the case at all. I think Microsoft wants to smother the Windows 7 flames and to dampen expectations as much as possible.
Because Microsoft won't talk about Windows 7, I can't quote any Microsoft representatives on what they are planning, thinking and hoping regarding Windows 7.
My opinion? The Softies want Windows 7 to be the anti-Vista. That is not a put-down of Vista, which may not be selling at two times the rate XP did -- but which still is selling strongly enough to boost Microsoft's Q2 FY 2008 client-division revenues by more almost 70 percent.
But Microsoft's brass do want to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that it encountered with Windows Vista -- and who can blame them? They want Windows 7 to be on-time, not polluted by feature-bloat and not overly ambitious. They want the Windows 7 betas to be near-feature-complete the first time that the majority of testers get builds. And most of all, they want Windows 7 to be a predictable, familiar, relatively minor upgrade. Should that take four years (counting from the fall 2006 Vista release-to-manufacturing date) to Microsoft's stated 2010 Windows 7 ship target to deliver? Probably not; Windows 7 in 2009 looks like a realistic possibility.
All this is not to say the Softies won't throw in a fun user-interface tweak and a couple nice-to-have improvements to keep Windows 7 from being a total yawn. That said, in the business market, a yawn is preferable to a bunch of incompatible drivers and apps....
But Microsoft is in a tricky spot. Apple can put consumers front and center when it designs a new operating system. But Microsoft needs to strike a balance between creating an operating system that appeals to both business users and consumers. If Microsoft only had to appease business users with Windows 7, a minor, no frills point-release update would be perfect. But it also has to fend off Mac OS X with Windows 7 on the retail front.
Can Microsoft make everyone happy with Windows 7? Should it even try? What would you do, if you were on the team that's charged with "Shipping Seven"?