Microsoft unveiled the details of the Windows 7 logo program today. The requirements for earning the Windows 7 compatibility label are stricter this time around--partially to boost support and acceptance of 64-bit systems, and partially to avoid the pitfalls Microsoft encountered with the Vista logo program.
The Windows 7 logo program beefs up the testing requirements, while reducing the red tape and expense it takes for partners and vendors to certify their products as compatible. Products that achieve the Windows 7 logo certification should perform optimally and experience minimal crashes, reboots or other issues.
There is a key change from past Windows compatibility programs. According to this Windows 7 blog post, "To be granted the Logo, products are tested to work with all versions of Windows 7 including 64-bit. This is an important change since 64 bit systems are becoming more mainstream."
Microsoft also claims to have engaged partners earlier in the operating system development process to ensure they had sufficient time to develop and test Windows 7 compatible products. The first of many mistakes with the launch of Windows Vista was the widespread lack of compatible drivers for critical devices like printers.
That was just the beginning of the factors that ultimately contributed to the lack of acceptance of Windows Vista. Microsoft also has a skeleton in the closet when it comes to the certified compatible logo program. The Windows Vista logo program led to some major controversy and embarrassment for Microsoft.
As if there weren't enough problems launching Windows Vista-both real and perceived, Microsoft was also slapped with a class action suit claiming that Microsoft labeled computer hardware as Vista-compatible even though the PC's were incapable of running some of the primary Windows Vista features. The marginally compatible hardware irked more than a few customers.
Granted, the minimum system requirements that vendors list for software are generally ridiculous. Trying to run any version of Windows on a system that just meets the minimum system requirements basically means that it will boot...eventually. It will work...barely...depending on how loosely you want to define "work".
But, I think it is fair for users to expect that all of the features of the operating system will work as long as the minimum system requirements are met. That is even more true if a user purchases a brand new computer system with a logo sticker slapped on the front stating it is compatible with the given operating system.
The Windows Vista launch fiasco and the lack of compatible hardware and software were most likely contributing factors to Windows Vista logo woes. With few vendors ready with actual Windows Vista hardware vendors felt compelled to designate systems as compatible when they weren't truly capable of running all of the Windows Vista features.
Microsoft appears to have learned from Windows Vista in every way imaginable. It is almost as if Windows Vista was just a two-year beta test and experiment in failed marketing so that Microsoft could get Windows 7 right.
Regardless of how they got here, it does seem that they got Windows 7 right-Windows 7 compatible logo program and all.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.