When Windows Vista went RTM (Release to Manufacturing) at the beginning of November 2006 it was supposed to be the jewel in Microsofts crown. But within days of its release it was bogged down in a quagmire of hardware and software compatibility issues that took Microsoft months to properly address.
Moreover, when it came to comparing the performance of Vista to XP it quickly became clear that the new OS couldnt keep up with the operating system that it was supposed to replace.
Even now, almost two years on, Vista only barely manages to beat XP in benchmarks tests.
But it didnt end there. Apple decided to put increasing pressure on the beleaguered OS by releasing adverts that played into that whole Vista is awful theme. Apples latest ads even pokes fun at the fact that Microsoft is spending money on Vistas image rather then getting on with the job of fixing the OS (not true, but who said that Apple ads had to be true?).
However, Microsoft can soon close the book on the whole Vista chapter and move on to a new one Windows 7, or as I like to call it, Lucky 7.
Why Lucky 7? Because its Microsofts chance to put a new wrapper around what theyre already selling, slap on a new name and distance itself from all that negativity associated with the botched release of Vista (hey, car makers have been doing it for years!).
So, what does Microsoft have to do to prevent Lucky 7 falling victim to the same problems that beset Vista?
The truth is, not much. In fact, if all Microsoft did with Windows 7 was go through the code and change every instance of Vista to 7, most of the problems that affected Vista would no longer be an issue.
Capability issues have, on the whole, been fixed thanks to patches and updated software and driver (if youre still waiting for some old bit of hardware of software to be supported by Vista, then Id give up now, because it if hasnt been fixed by now then a future fix is unlikely).
Performance is also no longer a major issue. So as long as Microsoft doesnt change anything critical, things should be just fine on that front (and we already know that 7s kernel will be the same as that of Vista).
Sure, wed all like the OS to be faster, but as long as its just as fast as Vista is now, I think people will let it slide. Another factor in Microsofts favor is that over the past two years processors and GPUs have become faster, and PCs now ship with more RAM than they did, which means that Lucky 7 will benefit from this free performance boost, thanks to Moores Laws. I dont want to give you the idea that Windows 7 is just going to be a rebranded version of Vista. Its not. But at the same time I think that people need to be realistic as to what Windows 7 will bring to the table over and above what Vista already does.
But underneath the hood Windows 7 will be like Vista. Or, for that matter, Windows Server 2008, which many seem to believe makes a better OS than Vista. However, all my testing shows there to be little or no difference, leading me to the conclusion that this is just another example of the Mojave Experiment effect put Vista in a different wrapper and people shed their preconceived negativity.
Heres how Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer described Windows 7 at conference in Florida last week:
Windows Vista is good, Windows 7 is Windows Vista with cleanup in user interface, improvements in performance. I'm not going to encourage anyone to wait; I'd go ahead and deploy Windows Vista today. I certainly run it, we run it everywhere at Microsoft. But we didn't have to go in an incompatible direction in order to make big strides forward in terms of cleanness of user interface, quality of user experience, performance.
There are other sweeteners that Microsoft could add to Lucky 7 to make it luckier.
For example, I think that its safe to say that people would appreciate a cheaper Windows (its a long shot, but it could happen), less confusion through having fewer flavors (do consumers really need three flavors to choose from? ) and maybe genuine extras for those opting for the Ultimate version (the Ultimate Extras program for Vista ended up being a major disaster for Microsoft, which was only able to deliver a handful of mediocre extras over two years).
Given that the financial climate is so very different this time around, I think that Microsoft is going to have to work harder at tempting people to upgrade.
However, just as with Vista, the main competition facing Windows 7 doesnt come from Mac of Linux, but from XP. If people decide to stick with what they know or a few more years, that could be a real problem for Redmond.