Ballmer: 'Windows 7 will be Vista, but a lot better'

It seems Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has finally thrown in the towel. Vista's biggest cheerleader seems to almost have given up trying to convince anyone who hasn't yet upgraded to Windows Vista that waiting for Windows 7 is a bad idea.

It seems Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has finally thrown in the towel. Vista's biggest cheerleader seems about ready to give up trying to convince anyone who hasn't yet upgraded to Windows Vista that waiting for Windows 7 is a bad idea.

"Windows 7 will be Vista, but a lot better," Ballmer said, according to my ZDNet blogging colleage Larry Dignan's report on Ballmer's annual on-stage Q&A with Gartner analysts at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo.

(Gartner, for its part, surprisingly is telling corporate customers there are some real reasons to consider upgrading to Vista now, rather than waiting for Windows 7.)

Ballmer also shared his two cents on Yahoo. Microsoft buy of Yahoo right now might be good for respective shareholders of both companies, Microsoft is not currently engaged in acquisition talks with its one-time takeover candidate, Ballmer said.

As I -- and many other Microsoft watchers have noted -- Microsoft is in a tough spot with Vista/Windows 7 positioning right now. In less than two weeks, the company will be touting a pre-beta build of Windows 7 at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC). Microsoft is proclaiming that Windows 7 will be a major release of its Windows client, but comments like those made by Ballmer today make that a tough proposition to defend.

As Microsoft officials reemphasized via a posting on October 15 on the company's Engineering 7 blog, the Windows team is not showing potential customers features that might not make it into the final Windows 7 product.  (One of the Windows 7 dev team's new rallying cries is "Cutting is shipping!") The way that Windows 7 is being built seems to imply that the product could ship at any time, as no untested code is part of any of the milestone builds.

My contention remains that -- as hard as it is to believe after years of Windows slip dates --  Windows 7 is closer to shipping than many people think. While Microsoft's public positioning as to when Windows 7 hasn't changed, I have heard from customers that Microsoft is privately telling them it's coming in the latter half of 2009.

All of these factors combined, no doubt, make it tougher for marketing/sales folks to convince customers who haven't yet upgraded to Vista that they should do so now.

I doubt we'll see any ads featuring the latest Ballmerism on Windows 7 being Vista with some tweaks. But "Windows 7: Vista done right" is kind of catchy.... Or there's always "Windows 7: The Anti-Vista."