Waiting for Windows 7

Monday Feb 4th 2008 by Rob Enderle
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With the market incursions by Apple and the lack of interest in Vista, many observers are looking to the next Windows OS release. Here are 10 improvements it needs over Vista.

It has been awhile since I’ve seen so much anticipation for a new operating system from anyone. In the Windows space Windows 95 was the product that set the bar. And there is a lot of chatter about folks wanting to wait for Windows 7 right now, reminiscent of the ramp to Windows 95.

Let’s chat a bit about what Windows 7 is likely to be, what it should be, and what you can do to make it better.

Windows 7: What It Likely Will Be

There were a lot of things that didn’t make the cut in Windows Vista that are likely to find their way into Windows 7. One of the big ones was a massive focus on the 64-bit mode, which was what Windows Vista was initially supposed to default to.

Windows Vista was designed to be the transition product between 32- and 64-bit platforms just as Windows 95 was supposed to be the transition platform between 16- and 32-bit platforms. But Vista missed so Windows 7 will have to pick up and carry this migration responsibility.

Virtualization was supposed to be a major part of Windows Vista and it fell out of the product relatively early in the cycle. Microsoft has recently finished cooking their initial virtualization offering and parts of that will likely make it into Windows 7. The good news is that this should make Windows 7 vastly more secure and migrations to new hardware after Windows 7 vastly easier. The bad news is you’re probably going to have to rethink how you image systems and rip and replace all of your desktop management tools.

We got BitLocker in Vista but what was initially called Palladium evolved and then died. Expect a massive change in the Windows 7 security model to address emerging trust problems and better secure the links between systems and the services they use. This will have broad implications for things from VPNs to home media systems and will likely take a while for the third party vendors to step up to.

User Interface

To say that folks were a little disappointed in the Vista’s Aero interface would be an understatement and there are an increasing number of vocal folks inside and outside of Microsoft demanding this be dramatically updated. Microsoft has historically resisted this. But with the market incursions by Apple and the lack of interest in Vista tied to this, my bet is we are likely to see a major change here.

This product will be based around the idea of SaaS. Windows Live will be a major part of the offering, with versions of this back-end service likely licensed to businesses and hosting companies so that IT can better design a back-end that fits their client base.

Vastly improved integration with Open Source back-end offerings from Microsoft partners

This is a major ongoing effort at Microsoft, partially driven by the EU judgment and partially tied to the realization that this interoperability – or the lack of it – is a major impediment to adoption. This will likely showcase the best interoperability work Microsoft has ever done.

Dramatic improvements to low power states

Currently many vendors use an embedded version of Windows or Linux to provide a low power state for checking email and calendars or enjoying multi-media content. Expect that to be less of a mix of products and integrated into Windows 7.

Also expect vastly improved reporting back to Microsoft, coupled with improved patch management from the company. This should result in less disruption and a faster response to identified problems. This data will likely also feed in from their One Care service, allowing them to identify and respond to threats at a much higher rate than previously.

Where Windows 7 Will Likely Miss

One of the big ongoing problems with Windows is the separation between hardware and the OS. Before Windows, in mid-range and mainframe computers the two were tightly coupled, yet Windows floated free. This separation has created sustained communications problems between the hardware vendors who want one thing and Microsoft, which has the power to say “no.”

This has led to a general unhappiness between Microsoft and the OEMs, all of them, and resulted in many of the problems we have seen with Vista. Whether we’re talking Windows or Windows Mobile, the OEMs that build PCs and phones would like more input. They’re screaming – but fearing they aren’t being heard – that the products need to either be made vastly easier to use, or they need to be allowed to go in and fix them.

In many cases, particularly for the bigger OEMs, they are willing to fully resource fixing the user experience with Windows because they see this as a way to gain significant competitive advantage over smaller players and white box manufacturers. It’s also a way to build a system that is as good as an Apple box without losing the Windows advantages.

But, Microsoft continues to say no. And if you’re wondering why there is so much interest by the OEMs in stuff like desktop Linux, this goes to the core of that. So most seem to think both Windows 7 and Windows Mobil 7 won’t have the user interface improvements that customers are demanding, and that will likely be a huge miss.

Microsoft’s New Leadership

We are still early in the Windows 7 development cycle and the lack of Vista adoption certainly has resulted in a lot of changes in the Windows team. Even with the OEM complaints, I’m hearing that the Windows folks are trying to listen. But apparently, there are still way too many folks that may be refusing to hear.

As IT folks you actually get a vote if you stand up and make yourself heard. But remember a lot of the problem with Vista was probably Microsoft trying to respond to too many different requests and cherry picking many of the wrong ones.

If everyone had 10 things they would like to remind Microsoft they want in Vista – and if many of those 10 things were consistent – we might be able to steer this puppy.

Here are my ten:

1. Better than Apple Ease of Use (Consistent user interface/fewer levels to drill through, etc.)

2. Better than Apple Initial User Experience

3. More consistency with Office

4. No Meaningless Warnings or Alerts (and fewer of them in general)

5. Integrated Anti-Malware

6. Improved Self Diagnosis

7. More selection with regard to content (if I don’t need it, I don’t want it on the system)

8. Bulk Application Delete (crapware elimination)

9. Seamless Migrations

10. One trusted consistent place for updates

Your list may be different, but if Microsoft doesn’t know what we want I’ll guarantee they won’t build it.

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