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The Windows 7 Effect
First, there was the wait for Windows Vista. Then there was the wait for Windows Vista SP1. Now many pundits are claiming that enterprise users will hold off migrating to Windows Vista and wait for the release of Windows 7.
How can Microsoft counter this? By leaking information about Windows 7 of course!
Microsoft's been having a tough time of late convincing people (important people, such as system admins and those with their hand on the check book) that Windows Vista is the future. Part of the problem is that Windows Vista has been dogged by high profile "issues" relating to compatibility, speed and reliability - things that people consider important in an operating system.
To counter these issues Microsoft developed and released SP1 (by the time you read this MSDN and TechNet users will be able to get their hands on this service pack, but others - the mere mortals reading this - will have to wait until mid-March for the download or mid-April for SP1 to come via Windows Update). SP1 is not only a massive pack of bug fixes but also brings the Vista kernel into line with that of Windows Server 2008.
Another problem for Vista is competition from another operating system. No, not Mac or a Linux distro, but its older brother - Windows XP. The fact that Windows XP is just so darn good is a big problem for Vista.
Sure, SP1 for Vista improves a few key features, but even then the appeal of XP is hard to resist - after all, it's the devil you know. Oh, and remember that XP SP3 is imminent, and that should make XP even better.
But Vista is also being squeezed from the other side. People are already talking about the next version of Windows - Windows 7 - as though its weeks away, despite the fact that this OS is barely embryonic. The buzz about Windows 7 is palpable.
When people talk to me about Windows 7, what they seem to be hoping for is an OS that delivers on the promises of what Vista was going to be (when it was codenamed Longhorn). Something has given people the impression that Windows 7 will deliver on those promises - "Windows Vista, take two" - and this belief is so strong in some that they are perfectly happy to stick with XP for a few more years.
Where has all this information about Windows 7 come from? Well, most of it is hearsay and speculation. Microsoft has said very little about this version officially.
But that hasn't stopped the leaks. A few weeks ago information about Windows 7 Milestone 1 started to hit the Internet. First there was some leaked information, then some screenshots. Some users were over the moon about the information that Windows 7 actually existed (something which I found rather odd - did people think that Microsoft had given up on operating systems?), while others were sceptical and felt that the screen captures had more to do with Photoshop than a new version of Windows. But then all doubt was removed and in true Paris Hilton fashion, a video hit the web. Proof that Windows 7 lived.
But how does this video help Microsoft and Vista sales in general? Well, I've looked closely at all the information about Windows 7 Milestone 1 (and yes, it's real, it exists ...) and when you take a few steps back from all the hysteria something else should hit you about Windows 7.
It's that it looks an awful lot like Windows Vista. True, back in the days of early Longhorn milestones, these looked a lot like XP, but this revelation is nonetheless a sign that Windows 7 is, at its core, going to be Windows Vista re-tweaked (doubly so if Microsoft commits to an aggressive release schedule). In fact, if you stumbled on the "Windows 7" video by accident, you might have thought that it was Windows Vista being demoed.
This "leak" (and I wonder whether it is a leak or not) helps Windows Vista. It basically says that Windows 7 is not going to be that much of a deviation from what Windows Vista is right now.
Sure, the final release is bound to contain a whole bunch of tweaks and enhancements, but at the core, beneath the veneer, it's going to be Windows Vista. With that in mind, those who are saying that by sticking with XP they can avoid Vista are mistaken - in fact, they're just delaying the inevitable. Doubts should be put to the side and Windows Vista embraced.
Well ... maybe not.
There are plenty of good reasons for individuals and companies alike to stick with XP. Equally, there are some good reasons to go with Vista. Whatever you decide, base that decision on real fact, not guesses and speculation as to what the next OS will bring.
By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
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