ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley notes that Microsoft is hiring developers to work on the successor to Windows 7, which she guesses might ship in 2010. As Mary-Jo says, some folks have talked about the possibility of Windows 7 being the last Windows that’s a piece of software rather than a service. I have no doubt that Microsoft will be shipping new versions of Windows for years to come–even if the world moves sharply to the Web and old-fashioned operating systems look…well, really old fashioned. But I see at least five routes that Microsoft could take with Windows 8, or whatever it’ll end up being called:
1) Evolutionary improvement on Windows 7 (much as Windows 7 promises to be an evolutionary improvement on Vista);
2) A major upgrade with big interface changes that’s still recognizably a traditional OS (think Windows 3.0 or Windows 95);
3) A major upgrade that blurs the line between traditional OS and Web service in a way that Windows 7 doesn’t;
4) A back-to-basics OS that’s focused lwon providing robust plumbing for applications that are largely Web-based (I think of this as the Return of DOS);
5) Some combination of the above scenarios.
Which would make the most sense? Well, route #1 might be the most immediately useful, and route #3 could do the most to make Windows relevant five, ten, and fifteen years from now. And I persist in thinking that we’ll see all operating systems–including OS X and Linux, too–focus more on the unglamorous stuff of route #4 and less on flashy signature features and bundled applications. There are hints of this approach in Windows 7, and Apple’s Snow Leopard looks like it’ll follow it as well.
Anyhow, we know nearly everything there is to know about Windows 7 at this point except for final bullet points like its ship date and price. Windows 8, however, is a blank piece of canvas. What do you think it’ll be like? More important, what do you want it to be like?