Windows 7 = Vista SE?

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Opinion – Ok, so we adjusted our hopes that Windows 7 will not become that revolutionary operating system we hoped it would be. But the ongoing flow of news suggests that we should downgrade our expectations even further, as Microsoft’s recently updated server roadmap indicates that there will not be a Windows 7 server, suggesting that Windows 7 indeed will not be what Microsoft would call a major operating system release. Sounds to me like Windows 98 SE all over again.

Criticizing Windows Vista is not a particularly difficult task these days. The SP1 update extinguished dozens of burning fires, but did not change the fact Vista remains below the expectations of many users – low enough to convince a significant portion of new PC buyers to stay with Windows XP for now.

There are signs that Microsoft isn’t happy with Vista either, despite the fact that the company has begun to fire back at Apple’s somewhat insulting commercials. So, what should Microsoft do? Scrap the whole thing and pour its money into building something new (which seems to be covered by the Midori project) or try to fix Vista with a thorough overhaul?

It seems that the development of a completely new OS may take some time and Microsoft in fact will try to bridge the gap with an enhanced version of Vista. Following notes of Microsoft executives that Windows 7 will bring just evolutionary changes at its core, Cnet just posted an article providing further proof that Windows 7 in fact may be a transitional operating system that may look much more like an update rather than what we would call a new operating system.

In fact, Microsoft’s server roadmap also shows evolutionary changes from today’s Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2008 R2 – the version that apparently will be aligned with the Windows 7 release. Calling the new software “R2” follows a tradition at Microsoft, indicating that the changes in this version do not justify a version with an entirely new name.

It is a very subjective impression at this time, but Windows 7 could very well turn into Windows Vista SE (“Second Edition”), a name that was used by Microsoft to update Windows 98. Of course we are speculating here, but Microsoft’s recent PR certainly provides food for thought and appears to caution anyone who might be expecting much more than multi-touch support from Windows 7. And given the problems the high expectations have caused for Vista that may not be a bad strategy.

However, Microsoft seems to be under more pressure than ever before in its history. There is virtually no room for mistakes with Windows 7 and we are wondering whether a second Vista is really enough to stack up against Apple’s Snow Leopard and bring the necessary enhancements to defend Windows applications against Google’s online services.