Seven Things Windows 7 Needs To Accomplish

By  |  Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 12:00 am

With Windows 7 set to make its public debut Wednesday at CES (it already has, if you count the BitTorrent leak), in honor of the seventh major version of Microsoft’s operating system, I’ve come up with seven things I think Windows 7 must do.

Redmond is at a crossroads. Apple is resurgent–the iPod and now the iPhone Effect are driving users away from Windows. Vista isn’t helping much either: the negative feedback loop caused by Microsoft’s bungled launch and marketing is also contributing to the exodus.

Windows 7 could be considered a critical release for Ballmer and Co. Either the new operating system plugs the hole in the dam, or the cracks grow bigger and wider. Microsoft needs Windows 7 to be a success more than I think it currently realizes. The threat from Apple is real.

So what does Windows 7 need to do?

1. It needs to work correctly out of the box. The launch of Vista was one of the worst in recent memory for Microsoft. Dozens — if not hundreds — of devices did not have proper drivers. This meant that peripherals (some not even a year old) stopped working once Vista was installed.

In some cases, users had to wait months for the manufacturers to catch up. For whatever reason too many partners were caught with their pants down. This cannot happen again.

2. It needs to be marketed correctly from the start. Why should people buy this? Microsoft needs to sell the end user on Windows 7. The company certainly did not do its job with Vista, and the statistics show that. That operating system released 26 months ago, and after all that time only 1 in 4 Windows users have installed it. That’s pretty bad.

Redmond needs to make the case for Windows 7 clearly, accurately, and succinctly. It will take more than a window dressing (no pun intended) to move this product off the shelves. And to many that’s what Vista was no matter if it was true or not.

Who’s fault is that? The marketers.

3. It needs to be simple to use. As you may remember this was the source of some discussion in the tech blogosphere a short while back. Windows 7 needs to be simple to use. Part of the reason why Mac OS has seen such an uptick is the fact that it really “just works.” That’s not just marketing speak.

After a day or so with a Mac, you will be able to do just about anything. The operating system is intuitive, and is built for ease of use. From the early looks of what were seeing out of the beta, Microsoft has seen the light and has taken a good look at what is needed to make this a reality.

4. It needs to learn from Mac OS X, not mimic it. Yes, I argued in the above linked post that Microsoft could learn a good deal on OS UI design from the folks at Cupertino. However, the last thing they need to do is copy it.

I think the Dock-like taskbar is a good example of how copying can go wrong–which Paul Thurrott also seems to lament. While it does a good job in making it look like the Dock, in true Microsoft style they try to add to it rather than innovate it, which in turn makes it harder to use or understand.

Microsoft needs to seriously research some of these things with end-users before they release them. Some seem like they are a little half-baked.

5. It needs to be innovative. This goes hand in hand with basically everything I’ve said before this point. Microsoft has the biggest concentration of software development brainpower in the world, in addition to what seems like limitless resources.

There’s no reason why something innovative cannot be coming out of Redmond on the regular. Vista seemed to lack any innovation — no, an animated translucent UI does not count, and neither do annoying security measures (User Account Control, I’m looking in your direction).

6. It needs to understand the economic climate. This is a huge one. This will be the first Windows version since 3.0/3.1 to release in a recessionary environment (yes, XP released during the dot-com bust, but overall much less of the economy was affected). Disposable income is at a significant low for many. Thus, a shiny new OS is not going to be important to many.

Microsoft really needs to think long and hard about how it prices Windows 7: the multiple version strategy of Vista was more confusing than anything. Add to this the fact that nobody is going to pay $250 for an OS upgrade when they barely can afford their mortgage payment, and it just makes sense to keep Windows 7 cheap.

Let’s go back to one version for the consumer and one for the IT professional/business. Don’t cripple the budget version too much, either. Don’t make Windows 7 fail just because you are trying to squeeze a few more percentage points of profit margin from your customers, or confuse them with too many versions of the same thing.

7. It needs to be able to sell itself. Innovation and value will sell Windows 7: Vista seemed to have neither. The Microsofties will yell from the mountaintops that it did have both — but to the rest of us it didn’t seem that way. XP sold itself because it appeared to have value: Microsoft did not spend much money at all getting it out the door.

Vista had to be force fed to consumers. That’s not good: if Microsoft does not learn from the mistakes of Windows Me Redux, we’ll be saying the same thing in another three or so years.

Perhaps by then if Microsoft fails to impress again most of us will be on Macs anyway so the point will be moot anyway? Mac fanatics can only dream.

 
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4 Comments For This Post

  1. pond Says:

    #1 on my list would be: Win7 must work on lighter, leaner machines, i.e. netbooks and their desktop brethren. MSFT has a history of trying to get each new version of Windows to work with next year’s hardware; this hurt the company with Vista’s heavy graphics requirements, and MSFT really was caught with its pants down over the netbook revolution.

    If not for netbooks, MSFT probably could have killed and buried WinXP last year.

    A lighter, leaner Windows would also be extensible down to the smartphone level to give the iPhone and upcoming Android devices some serious competition.

  2. DJ Says:

    Ed,

    Points well taken and well spoken. I am one who decided to take advantage of the planned/unplanned beta leak.

    After 5 days of W7, build 7000, the first thing I can praise MS for is the fact that two of my machines which did not even qualify to run Vista, W7 installed and more importantly is running without a hitch. Now day 6 and not one crash. Here’s something else really cool. One of these machines is a laptop with a mere 1 GB of memory and the OS occupies only 3.5 GB of storage. The pretend or so called “Dock” is lame. It’s lame because it’s just there and really preforms no apparent functional task (maybe that will come later on). Although the cosmetic layout of menus is quite different from XP (never had interest in Vista), the organization of tasks/groups seems to be well thought out. It also appears that MS has taken an initial interest in the customers dissatisfaction with many aspects of Vista. Many have either been eliminated or refined for W7. The UAC has not been annoying as reported with Vista. The UAC has only popped up in W7 when something is affecting the kernel. Installation of my own software has not been a problem. There were some audio driver issues on one machine but they were resolved using released Vista drivers.

    Finally, your point of price is right on. Owning many machines; if W7 is going to fly in the market place the price per copy of W7 must come down. I have established alternatives, namely my MAC and Linux running on many machines. Like many other customers, we have other OS choices and we have already exercised those choices. Now, MS needs to market a compelling reason to move to W7. Lastly MS, please don’t bloat this version, nor come back to us with 7 different versions. That concept failed miserably.

  3. Dj Skreem Says:

    Microsoft did not copy apple’s dock, the dock like disign was used in windows fist with the lage icons in windows 1.0 all they did was make the task bar bigger an make the icons large and without lables as defaultin windows 7 or in other words took an old idea they had way back in the day and fused it wit the current task bar an quick launch. It resembles Apple’s dock but it looks nothing like it an works similar but will neva be the same. check the windows 7 blog to see 4 yourself how simmilar the new tskbar is to the one in windows 1.0 at http://blogs.msdn.com/e7/.

    I agree with DJ microsoft has done thier home work with windows 7 and if they continue allong the path they took with windows 7, windows 8 will be even better but with 120% more innovation from microsft i hope an taking the new taskbar to a level where i will not be refferd 2 as the mac dock clone.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Here’s to hoping it works just like Vista did.

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