Windows 7 RC1 and Vista SP2 – Two Drastically Different Release Paradigms

I’ve been really struck over the past few days by the difference in approaches between the Windows 7 RC1 and Vista SP2 releases. Windows 7 beta and RC1 have been handled much like the new Obama administration, emphasizing transparency and quickly addressing issues. We received plenty of notice there would be at least one Windows 7 RC and I fully expect the RC1 download to be available on TechNet and MSDN tomorrow as Microsoft promised.

Microsoft was very responsive during the Windows 7 beta, much more so than we’ve seen with any other Microsoft product beta. Examples include quickly making changes to planned UAC defaults when many users and bloggers balked at the decrease level of security, committing to resolving the vulnerability where unauthorized programs or scripts could change UAC settings without the user’s knowledge, increasing the capacity of the beta download servers and extending the download time period when demand outstripped the expected demand for the Windows 7 public beta.

On the other hand, the Vista SP2 release is being handled very differently. The Vista SP2 (and Windows Server SP2) beta just concluded but no specifics have been released about when all of us will get the official bits. Vista SP2 is being shushed away to the OEMs, leaving us to wonder when SP2 will show up, ready for download. (You can find out what’s in SP2 if you like by checking here.)

Now, it’s certainly true that Vista and Windows 7 are at much different places in their respective product lifecycles, but even so, there seems to be a pretty significant difference in approaches between the two. 

The Windows 7 releases appears to be marching to a new drummer, at least one that I hope Microsoft will continue to follow. Vista’s following the old tried and true (and slow) Microsoft release process. Hopefully the way Microsoft has handled bringing out Windows 7 isn’t just a one time fluke, but a sign of good things to come. If you’re listening, Microsoft, the Windows 7 beta and RC approach has been refreshing and delivered much more value. Please keep it going.

It’s been very a nice change knowing what’s happening in the release process (at least as much as you can) and then to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of what Microsoft’s delivered in the Windows 7 beta and updates.

Right now I’m in the final stages of product development and then launch of a new software product for one of my clients. There are a lot of good experiences in the Windows 7 release process I’ll gladly apply to my own future product releases.

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