Measuring the Scale of a Release

Steven Sinofsky, who oversees Windows 7 development, has really committed to keeping us in the loop on the new Engineering Windows 7 blog. In today’s post, “Measuring the Scale of a Release,” he discusses whether or not Windows 7 will be a “major” or “minor” release. It’s a pretty good piece that really makes some good points. Read on for our perspective.

As a Windows Vista user at work and a Mac user at home, I have just a few thoughts on this. It doesn’t matter whether Windows 7 is actually NT 7.0 or NT 6.x. Really, no one cares outside of IT professionals. There are just a few things I’d focus on if I were leading the Windows 7 team.

Make certain that hardware works
The drivers thing, whether Microsoft’s fault or not, made Vista embarrassing. Either make sure drivers work or force manufacturer’s to obey stricter standards to display a “Compatible with Windows 7” sticker. I don’t think it’s so bad to force people to buy new stuff; but it’s frustrating to only find out there’s a problem after you’ve made the purchase and tried to install on your existing hardware.
Dump the confusing versions
I can’t buy a version of Vista that can make shadow copies and do media center unless I buy Ultimate for… what is it now… 400, 500 bucks? This is price gauging, plain and simple, as you peddle me software you’ve intentionally crippled or force me to dish out more cash for the proper version. Make one simple version, and if you can’t do that, no more than two versions: home and professional.
Focus on what you know people need, not what they say
How cool is Time Machine? People need backups, but many just don’t realize it. As digital photo collections grow, mp3 libraries get fat, and people begin the switch to purely digital media, features like this will become critical. I expect that over the next few years, we’ll start to see stores on the ‘net about people whose Mac crashed, but their butts were saved by Time Machine. I don’t know anyone who properly backs up a home install of Windows, and those that do use Explorer to drag huge folders to a mounted external drive. Know what the Mac enterprise email client is?, the same thing on the desktop. Windows Mail (Ed. Note: Fixed: it’s Windows Mail, not Windows Live Mail) – as good a rewrite as it is – is widely perceived as a failure, yet Outlook, the for-charge add on, is a huge hit. So ditch the “home” or “lite” versions of your programs and deliver real value the first time with the already expensive initial investment. This type of behavior will begin to restore Windows in many people’s eyes.

As it stands, most Windows users I know are bound to Windows primarily because they’re scared to switch to a Mac. That’s pathetic. Microsoft should be embarrassed. Windows 7 is a chance to rectify that. Will they do it? I don’t know. But transparency via the blog can’t be seen as anything but a good thing.


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