I recently attended a briefing where Microsoft explained some of the new features in Windows 7 to reviewers from different publications. At the end of the meeting, the MS folks asked the half-dozen of us present what it will take for the new OS to be a success.
"Injecting about three trillion dollars into the economy to end this recession," was my initial response. It's hard to imagine any new OS will be a success, especially with business customers, until the economy improves. What we are already using works just fine, thank you. It will have to see us through.
So, let's fast forward in the economic cycle to the inevitable uptick, when investing in business computing becomes easier. Here are 10 things Windows 7 will have to do.
1. Windows 7 should not be positioned in relation to Windows Vista, which is nonexistent in most businesses. Windows 7 needs to be related back to Windows XP, to which I think it is the legitimate successor.
2. I don't see Windows 7 as Vista SP2 or Vista Lite or anything like this. Windows 7 looks like a new OS to me and deserves to be treated as such. (Readers: Give Windows 7 a chance, OK?)
3. Windows 7 needs to run just fine on hardware the runs Windows XP just fine today. My sense, playing with Windows 7, is this is possible. Vista grabbed an early reputation as a resource hog. Windows 7 must avoid this.
4. Because Windows 7 cannot upgrade an existing Windows XP installation, Microsoft needs to provide easy transition tools. A copy of Windows 7 and a flash drive or small stack of DVDs needs to move all my data and my applications and my settings to the new OS. This may mean Microsoft needs to send an applications disc with Windows 7.
5. Just for emphasis: If I have to reinstall my applications, Windows 7 will not be a welcome upgrade.
6. If Microsoft does not or cannot accomplish the previous items, then it should not promote Windows 7 as an upgrade and offer it on new hardware only. This will avoid one of the major factors in Vista's failure: It's inability to run well on what people already owned.
7. Fortunately, the Windows 7 user experience is not wildly different from XP the way Vista is. This will make it easier for companies (or households) to have a mix of Windows XP and Windows 7.
8. I like what I have seen of Windows 7, but have yet to hear Microsoft offer a good reason besides "a wide range of improvements" for me to upgrade. If it comes only on new hardware, that's fine. And, yes, some people will then decide they like the new OS and upgrade older machines as a result. But, if Microsoft hopes to sell an upgrade it needs to look at how Apple sells its upgrades.
9. Speaking of which: Apple sells features and applications that are included with the OS as major upgrade benefits. If Microsoft included more significant applications with the OS, maybe it could make them as important as the iApps are to Apple customers. Apple manages to charge its best customers up to $300-a-year for upgrades of some sort.
10. I think we have solved the problem of linking Windows 7 too closely to the release of Office 14 now that the timing between two seems clearly offset. Delays, economic or technical, should not bring the two releases back together. At least, not until its clear from seeing the software that one won't drag down the other.
I won't say those are the "top 10" things Microsoft needs to do to make Windows 7 a success. My experience with the OS is too limited for me to feel I've considered all the angles, but these suggestions are a good place for Redmond to start.
David Coursey has already installed Windows 7 in a virtual machine on a Mac. And it works quite nicely, so far. Write him at email@example.com.