Windows 7: The Anti-Vista?

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"?

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"?