Microsoft Says Vista Taught Valuable Lessons

Vista had two betas and two release candidates, and many features were changed and added during the course of their development, which led to Vista's well-publicized delays and compatibility problems. But from the get-go with Windows 7, Microsoft has focused on keeping the scope of the operating system within reason and not getting carried away by adding too many features, says Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows product management.

"We wanted to make sure that our eyes were aligned with our stomach," Nash said in an interview.

Getting application and device vendors involved with Windows 7 early on has had a beneficial impact, Nash said. At TechEd, to be held from May 11 to 15 in Los Angeles, Microsoft will set up a Windows 7 'Bring Your Own Apps' lab that includes a secure Windows 7 test platform for developers to test and debug their applications.

Last November, Microsoft estimated that Vista SP1 had achieved compatibility with 95 percent of devices, and the Windows 7 Beta had 94 percent compatibility, according to Nash. "The Windows 7 RC should help drive much deeper engagement at a much earlier stage than in the past," he said.

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MSDN and TechNet subscribers can download the Windows 7 RC now, and Microsoft will offer it to the public on May 5. Barring any major "showstopper" bugs, Microsoft is on track to release Windows 7 in time for PC makers to get in on new machines in time for the holiday season. Microsoft's failure to achieve this with Vista was due in part to the fact that three months elapsed between Microsoft's release of Vista RC1 (September 2006) and the Vista RTM (November 2006).

But there's nothing to indicate that the Windows 7 RC will be anything but smooth sailing for Microsoft and its testers, and it's likely that the Windows 7 RTM will arrive sometime this summer. Microsoft has avoided specific statements on Windows 7 and says plans are to launch Windows 7 in Microsoft's 2010 fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2010.

Nash wouldn't commit to saying Microsoft would release Windows 7 in time for the holiday season, as Microsoft Senior Vice President Bill Veghte did earlier this week. But Nash did seem optimistic about Microsoft's chances.

"We'd love to be more definitive ... We're feeling really good and have been getting very positive feedback, and we have to make sure to take that feedback and do the right things," Nash said.