Your Windows 7 Predictions: True or False?


Back when Vista was just released, it became clear that the operating system had some major, major issues. It delivered a boatload of new features and improvements over Windows XP, but they came at a huge price: increased hardware demands, in-your-face performance bugs, and application and driver incompatibilities. People didn’t buy it – figuratively and literally.

It didn’t take Microsoft long to realise that they needed to shift the attention away from Vista to Windows’ next version, whose name would soon be revealed as Windows 7. However, uncharacteristically for Microsoft, the company remained fairly mum on the subject until the D6 conference, where the ever lovely Julie Larson-Green gave short presentation about Windows 7.

Since that time, May 2008, we have gained a good insight into Windows 7, culminating in the several test releases put out by the company that have been received with almost unanimous praise, even by the hardest Vista detractors. However, in between Vista’s launch in early 2007, and the first official words in May 2008, speculation on OSNews was rampant.

Let’s look back upon what we were all saying, and how wrong or right we were. I’m going to talk about what we hoped Windows 7 would be, and what we actually expected Windows 7 would be – those are two different things. Because I want to fall on my bum first, let’s start with the uninformed gibber I spewed onto the web back then.

To keep this article from growing into a book, I decided to skip whatever news sites were saying, focussing on what you, our readers, and I have said. I also decided to sample random articles about Windows 7 for interesting comments, and trimmed it down to a manageable amount. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

What I hoped

In the article “Windows 7: Preventing Another Vista-esque Development Process“, I set out how I personally would have liked Windows 7 to turn out. Even though I acknowledged in the article that it was all just wishful thinking, it’s still fun to see what I hoped for, and how little (read: nothing) of that became reality.

In summary, I hoped Microsoft would rebuild the userland of Windows on top of the tried and true Windows NT kernel and associated tools. Contrary to some other people, I see no logical reason to use something UNIX-based, since Windows NT comes with features built-in that are only available as afterthoughts in the UNIX world. NT is also quite portable, well-designed, and scalable. No reason to start over from scratch, I wrote.

The userland is where the problems lie, and so I advised Microsoft to start with a clean slate on that end. Basically, I hoped they would do an Apple: build a new userland, and use virtualisation to still allow for backwards compatibility, much like Mac OS X and its Classic environment.

To make sure business users didn’t start crying in foetal position in the corner of their offices, I figured it would be a good idea to keep a Windows Server 2003-based “Classic” version of Windows available for businesses and enterprises, which would receive only security patches and bug fixes. In the article, I didn’t specify a timeline, but now I’d say that the “new” and “Classic” Windows should both be available for about 4-5 years. Obviously, support for the Classic version should extend beyond those 4-5 years; Microsoft has always been quite generous in its support cut-off points.

I didn’t just advise them to do this because I thought Vista’s userland was a complex mess; I also did so because it would give the talented folk at the company the breathing room to experiment and come up with new and radical ideas without being shackled by 15 years of backwards compatibility in mind. A lot of talented and bright folk are working at Microsoft, and I’d love to see them working without handcuffs and see what they come up with.

How much of this came true? Exactly – nothing. Luckily, I already stated in the article that this wasn’t a very likely course of action. In fact, I stated that “Microsoft has invested far too much time and money into Vista to make it sizzle out in such a way. In other words, I am afraid we are going to be stuck with another Vista-esque release.” This prediction can still come true if they royally mess up between now and the final release, but as it stands now, Windows 7 seems like a genuine improvement over Vista.


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