News leaked that Windows 8 is projected for some time in 2012, but the majority of the headlines out there have it backwards. It is being framed as some sort of unexpected revelation that the next OS will arrive so soon, but in fact the OS should be released in late 2011--which is a very, very welcome delay.
The standard development lifecycle for Microsoft these days is two years, which would place the release of the next Windows operating system around the end of 2011. A post in January of this year from a Microsoft employee leaked an even more ambitious goal--projecting a July 2011 release.
While it's easy to roll our eyes and huff about yet another product release delay from Microsoft, and whine about how it never seems to produce or release anything on time, in this case we should all send Microsoft a "thank you" card. Driving a next-generation OS so quickly on the heels of Windows 7 would benefit nobody.
A new Windows OS in 2011 would be an utter disaster. Even 2012 might be a bit soon. Windows 7 is an exceptional accomplishment for Microsoft, and it is the fastest-selling operating system in history, but it still has a long way to go to eclipse the decade old Windows XP. It might be late 2011 or early 2012 before that happens, so it is a bit over zealous to expect the market to switch to yet another OS.
One of the stumbling blocks for adoption of Windows 7 has been hardware. Businesses and consumers that are still relying on the legacy Windows XP operating system also tend to have obsolete hardware--at least by today's standards. So, making the switch from Windows XP to Windows 7 requires not only installing and migrating to the new operating system, but replacing the PC hardware.
The details that have leaked about the features that might be included in Windows 8 suggest that it will be so revolutionary that many of the Windows 7 PCs will not have the hardware to take advantage of it. Windows 8 is rumored to use proximity sensors and facial recognition to automatically recognize and log users in, and may extend the touchscreen capabilities of Windows as well.
Most businesses and consumers who invest in new hardware and make the switch from Windows XP to Windows 7 will not be ready for another upgrade by 2012--and definitely not by 2011. I realize that Microsoft has to make money, and that it has to continue to develop and innovate in order to try and remain relevant, but I predict that Windows 7 will be another "Windows XP" in that it will be widely embraced and users will be very reluctant to give it up just to get the latest bells and whistles.
So, don't ridicule Microsoft for delaying Windows 8. Send the Windows 8 team a bottle of wine and a "thank you" note and ask them to please take all the time they need--both to make sure they get it right, and to give the world time to embrace and enjoy Windows 7.