Oct. 22 will also forever be remembered as the beginning of the healing process for Microsoft and its customers, both of which are still scratching their heads over what happened with Windows Vista.
Microsoft says it's on track to release Windows 7 to manufacturing in late July, which means PC makers will have plenty of time to load it onto new machines in time for the most economically crucial holiday season in years. In light of the beating Microsoft has taken in its last few fiscal quarters, and recent declines in Windows market share that have been attributed to the Vista debacle, a solid showing by Windows 7 would go a long way toward silencing critics.
Windows 7, currently in Release Candidate stage, looks plenty capable of banishing Vista's by-now well-known performance and compatibility demons. And Microsoft will need that to happen to solidify its grip on the netbook market and convince customers to pay more for Windows 7 on netbooks than they've been paying for XP.
Fortunately for Microsoft, customers and companies that have been avoiding Vista by remaining in a Windows XP holding pattern will have plenty of motivation to migrate to Windows 7. For example, the virtualization features Microsoft has built into Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 represent a glittering lure for cost-conscious companies; and Windows 7's improved deployment and management tools can quickly add up to measurable cost savings.
Of course, Microsoft will be launching Windows 7 into the teeth of one of the worst economic downturns in decades, so its commercial success will be anything but a slam dunk. Regardless of how good Windows 7 turns out to be, some companies may decide to hold off on upgrading simply because XP does what they need it to do.
Microsoft has acknowledged that it waited too long to release a follow-up to XP, and it's enlisting the aid of solution providers to drum up interest in Windows 7 among small businesses that are perfectly happy running their day-to-day operations on XP.
Microsoft is working on many fronts to convey the implicit message that Windows 7 will succeed where Vista didn't, and on Oct. 22, the market will begin making their own assessment -- the only one that matters.
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