10 Things That Won't Make Windows 7 A Success (and 1 That Will)

What lessons did Windows Vista teach Microsoft? ComputerWorld is reporting Microsoft will keep the Windows 7 code name as the final product name for Windows OS destined to replace Vista. I suspect no one will be happier to turn the page on Vista than Microsoft. To say Microsoft's seen better days in the eyes of their OS customers would be a gross understatement. The obvious question is what is Microsoft doing to avoid a repeat of Vista so Windows 7 doesn't fall flat again. A simple name change certainly won't turn around the perception of the entire market. I can tell you what things didn't make Vista a winner in the marketplace. Here's my tongue-in-cheek look at what Microsoft shouldn't do to make Windows 7 a success.

What Didn't Work

1. Better security. As much as we all have bashed Microsoft for security flaws in their software, a redesigned, more secure Windows Vista kernel wasn't in the end enough to get businesses or users to flip from Windows XP to Vista. That's proof positive that good enough security trumps better security. Claiming Windows 7 is more secure than Windows Vista or XP won't make Windows 7 a success.

2. Lipstick On A Pig. Vista's redesigned interface in many ways was simply an overlay on top of existing Windows XP configuration settings. Rather than making it easier to use, it meant Windows knowledgeable users had to learn a new layer just to get to the same underlying functionality already existing in Windows XP. Why take the overpass when the freeway will get you to the same destination, faster.

3. 3D User Interface. Vista's Aero interface features and transparency added a cool, glossy look but in the end didn't materially improve the end user's experience. For many users it slowed down the user interface, making Vista seem slower than the older Windows XP running on older hardware. More proof that iCandy alone won't make users switch.

4. Letting Apple Dis You One Commercial At A Time. Like that yapping terrier next door, Apple just kept coming and coming at Microsoft, attacking each new flaw and imperfection in Vista. Eventually, like enduring the marketing equivalent of water torture, we all just gave in, encouraging Apple and making their "I'm a Mac" commercials just that much more enjoyable. Time for Microsoft to learn the art of smack down and not let Apple paint Windows 7 in the next Vista corner, which you ...know... they just can't wait to do.

5. The New Jersey of Operating Systems. In the 1980's Bill Joy called Unix the "New Jersey of operating systems" because it had a little bit of everything thrown in by just about everybody. Vista seemed to never have met a software app or feature it didn't like, giving it much the same kind of "bloatware" issues. Then adding online equivalents of many of the apps didn't help. Tell me again what's the difference between Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Photo Gallery? I thought so. Windows 7 needs to be a contestant on The Biggest Loser and it needs to win.

6. Hardware Won't Save You. Like so many times before, Microsoft counted on the speed improvements in hardware processors and the cost of storage to make up the difference for bigger, bulkier OS and applications. That didn't work out so well for Vista and making the same mistake for Windows 7 won't work out either.

7. The Upgrade Treadmill. Every corporation in America now knows the drill: Microsoft will put the squeeze on customers to upgrade to the new OS, the new OS will require new hardware, and thus, we'll wait until we absolutely positively have to upgrade our hardware and then just bite the bullet and do both... but only if we have to.

8. Death By A Thousand Versions Of The Same Product. How many versions of Vista are there again? Okay, if you say so. We only need 3 versions of Windows 7: a home version, a business version, and a mobile version. Three products, and three SKUs. That's it. Give us any more and we'll send you back into timeout, Microsoft.

9. Fixing What Wasn't Broken. Oh, my... where do I start. Probably the best example I can think of is epitomized by ribbon menus in Microsoft Office. (Yes, I know that's not Vista but it's a great example of what I'm talking about.) Problem ribbon menus solves: none. Customer benefit: none. End result: negative user productivity. Ribbon menus was about as good an idea as switching to the metric system. I'm sure somebody thought it was a good idea, but nobody asked if it was worth the price we'd have to pay.

10. Annoying The User. UAC was the direct approach. Ask the end user at every turn possible a question they don't care about, don't know the answer to, for something they are going to do any way. Or there's the indirect approach, the sum of a lot annoying little problems: slower file copy, a slower computer using experience, a lack of drivers, stability issues, confusing product editions, etc. Either approach works great at annoying the end user. Doing both guarantees it will happen. 

What Will Work

1. Make Windows 7 Better For the Customer. That's it, that's what Vista forgot to do. Make the OS better for the user -- the end user and the business. But the "baseline of better" isn't Vista, it's still Windows XP. Windows 7 has to be better in the customer's eyes than XP. If not, well..., we know how how this movie goes.

Windows 7 has to be cheaper to operate and worth the upgrade price, i.e. it's about TCO. Its got to be easier to use, and more stable than XP (not Vista, that bar's too low.) Windows 7 has to empower users and businesses to move into the era of SaaS, Software+Services, cloud services, synchronized data, and virtualization on the desktop. If Windows 7 does those things, then some flashy cool stuff will be appreciated, but only if the fundamentals are better than Windows XP.

The evidence of what not to do with Windows 7 is overwhelming. A layup even. And by not doing a bunch of wrong things, Microsoft can set themselves up to do the right things to make Windows 7 a success.

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