Long March to Windows 7

Remember when we first said Windows XP was getting old? I know, about six months after it went on sale. The surface gloss rubbed off as the hardware market rushed ahead of software, the internet mushroomed and new security concerns loomed large in the technorati’s thinking. Microsoft had a plan, a grand plan, a visionary plan. So how did we not get all those features we were promised…?

Blackcomb was supposed to be the successor of Microsoft Windows XP.  This prestigious project was intended to change the way the  way we used the PC. It was all about search since nobody could find anything among the hundreds of files and folders any more. Add intelligent search, interpreted  through lots of new meta-data in a  new file system Blackcomb was supposed to
launch by 2005.

Like all good plans, this changed when Microsoft decided to include an interim build between XP and the release of Blackcomb. Longhorn was planned to launch by 2003. Rapidly, Microsoft added many of the features intended for Blackcomb to Longhorn including WinFS.

However, in 2003, we suffered the ‘summer of worms, a wave of computer viruses, Blaster, Sobig and Walchia Under the pressure of these attacks, Microsoft had to prioritise developing new service packs for Windows XP and Server 2003. Longhorn was rebooted again in 2004, the vast industrial development machine at Microsoft no longer as fleet-footed as in the old days of MS-DOS.

Longhorn was finally released as Windows Vista in December 2006 for business and January  2007 for retail. Many of the features including WinFS were
missing, the final product almost drowned in criticism from business, general public and commentators alike. Painfully slow, with a difficult user interface and plagued with application and driver compatibility problems, it was probably Microsoft’s worst received product. Few of the mass-volume corporate clients bought it and home users avoided it in droves. Nobody saw a reason to shell out for an expensive upgrade of the operating system and many of their applications while XP continued to work. Sales of Vista pre-installed on new PC’s was even disappointing.

During the development of Windows Vista, the code name of Blackcomb changed to Vienna then to  the official name of Windows 7 in 2007. The public beta  version of the OS appeared in January   2009, the Release  Candidate in May and final RTM version (Release to  Manufacture) is slated to shipped to retail around October 2009.

Much to Microsoft’s relief, Windows 7  received good reviews; as Windows 2000 was NT made good, Windows 7 was the release that Vista should have been. Performance was up markedly, the aero interface was rationalised in Windows 7 and where many features were added It was argued they needed more frequent updates than the rest of Windows 7, a liability that Microsoft decided to side-step by bundling them into Windows Live Essentials and made available for download under the thin guise of cloud services.

Anywhere But Here
So Windows 7 arrived four years late, wrapped in marketing babble, trade-marks and excuses. Most people welcomed it as ‘the version of Vista that worked,’ all of which rather took the shine off the product’s achievements. As a user experience it has been eclipsed by mobile; phones are where the action and the glamour are in today’s market, smart-phones, led by Apple, making Microsoft’s efforts look second-division. AJS

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