Microsoft Helping Partners Avoid Vista Repeat

That's the reasoning behind Monday's launch of the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Ecosystem Readiness Program, which gives Microsoft's software and hardware partners access to beta software builds, development and testing tools, community interaction and technical documentation.

The idea is to give partners a consistent foundation to begin learning about and testing the new products, and to clearly communicate all changes -- something that Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows product management, admits that Microsoft didn't do a good enough job of during the run-up to Vista's release.

"One of the most impressive things about this content is that it's prescriptive," Nash told in a recent interview. "It presents the information you need to know as well as the context of why it's important."

In recognition of the explosion of smartphones, digital cameras and other consumer electronic devices, Microsoft has focused on making these devices play well with Windows 7. One notable feature, Device Stage, makes it easier for users to find applications and services for their hardware devices, and can be leveraged by vendors to create better user experiences, Nash said.

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With Windows 7, partners also will have opportunities to include touch-enabled features within their mainstream applications, and that's creating a network effect with some interesting implications for entertainment, home and kitchen settings, according to Nash. Although it's debatable whether businesses are clamoring for touch technology just yet, Nash says that's one area where the partner ecosystem will play a major role.

Microsoft's channel partners like what they've seen from the vendor in terms of its open communication about all aspects of Windows 7 development.

"The partner story with Windows 7 has improved noticeably because Microsoft has focused on providing early access," said Lee Nicholls, global solutions director for Microsoft technologies at Getronics, a global $3.4 billion IT services company and Microsoft Gold partner.

Added Nicholls: "The Windows 7 beta is so stable and polished that it really doesn't feel like beta software. They've clearly paid a lot of attention to the feedback that users gave them during Vista's release."