Lets take a look at this future battle. I wont be calling winners and losers, but will be pointing out the key things to look for to call this fight early.
Windows Vista is a major OS release, the first that has attempted to do both corporate and consumer desktops at the same time since Windows 95. Given that, it is actually surprising how well it has done, because technology has changed a lot in the last 10 years and this was a long dry spell between major releases. Still, because it is a major release, IT is understandably a little leery of the platform. We have yet to see anything that looks like a major implementation wave in business.
Windows 2010 (for lack of a better name like Vista 2, Vistas Revenge, or Return of Vista) will be the maintenance release for this platform, and Microsoft has completely revamped their OS team to bring it out. Mostly due to tuning and cleanup, this product will likely be less supportive of pre-Vista applications and be better tuned for hardware changes like hybrid-hard drives and Intels Robson then Vista was. Slated to be ideal on AMDs new Fusion platform, which is being developed along with Windows 2010, this product will likely define the desktop from 2010 to 2015.
This will represent the strongest offering Microsoft will have for desktop hardware. Office 2010 will be optimized for it, which is different than Office 2007 and Vista today. Indications for adoption, if the product is successful, should start showing up in late 2008 as budgets get set to deploy the product early in companies; this will likely include a large number of companies that werent interested in, or able to deploy, Vista. Any major slide in market share ramping up to the Windows 2010 launch would indicate the market was looking elsewhere for their new platform. The result would do Microsoft massive financial damage.
We will begin to get a feeling for the changes in the product at TechEd this year but probably wont get a real sense until the same show in 2008, when product specifications are likely to be more certain. This a keystone product for Microsoft and if they lose too much market share it could spell a decline for the company. But if the market likes it, it could also shore up the firm, ensuring its continued survival, if not prosperity, for another 5 years.
While this is a point release and due out in October this year, the product is undergoing a massive change primarily to improve its Windows interoperability. This is Apples strongest push onto the business desktop since Steve Jobs has been running the company.