News of Windows 8 is scarce and uncertain, but most of what we know about it points to a release in 2012, some three years after the release of Windows 7. While this three-year release cycle worked well with Windows 7, making it the norm might not be the best plan for Microsoft, its business and home users, and its software developers.
A Solution to the Vista Problem
Windows 7 was developed and released in just three years, and the operating system was basically done when the public beta hit almost a year before. This accelerated timetable was a response to Windows Vista, which was being lambasted by the press, by Microsoft’s competitors, and by consumers, whether or not said consumers ever actually used the operating system. Once upon a time, it seemed like everybody knew a computer guy who hated Vista.
Vista’s flaws – a buggy initial release, slow performance, poor public perception, higher system requirements and not enough to differentiate it from Windows XP – gave Microsoft several clear goals to meet with Windows 7. Now that we’ve been using the final version of the operating system for six months, it’s clear that the company was able to meet or exceed expectations in almost every area of Windows 7.
The development cycle was such a success that three-year Windows development cycles are now to be the norm. The problem is, without a Vista to respond to, can Microsoft release another operating system which is so clearly better than its predecessor?
Windows XP’s Example
In 2010, Windows XP is finally showing its age, especially on modern hardware. Drivers are becoming more of a problem. Some new software releases, including Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer 9, plan to drop support for the OS. In short, the day of reckoning has finally come for the nearly decade-old operating system.
In 2006 though, XP was at the top of its game. Its market penetration was near complete. Everything ran on it, and it ran on nearly everything. Vista’s convoluted development cycle gave XP an unprecedented amount of time to stretch its legs, and the result was an OS with which nearly everyone was comfortable, though it was missing some of the flash of competitors like Apple’s OS X.
There’s definitely a lesson here for Microsoft – give your “good” OS releases as much time on the market as they need. Windows 7 has been extremely well-received by the marketplace, with Microsoft trumpeting usage share statistics and sales every month – capitalize on this success by refining your OS in future service packs, rather than punting it out the door in favor of Windows 8 in only three short years.