The Problem With Microsoft’s Windows 8 Timetable

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.

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23 Responses to The Problem With Microsoft’s Windows 8 Timetable

  1. Manny March 20, 2010 at 2:08 am #

    Really intriguing article with very noteworthy points. People including myself get so caught up in Windows 7 and how great it is that you think Microsoft can’t do wrong if they stick to the same release cycle/format for future OSes. If it hadn’t been for this article I don’ think it would of crossed my mind to even think of this dilemma. It’s very nice to actually see an original commentary on Windows 8 and not the usual expected hype, although I do look forward to Windows 8. This article reminds me of how Neowin use to be years ago. Move over Neowin, definitely be checking out your site and commentary more often. Thanks.

  2. Sandeep March 20, 2010 at 4:02 am #

    nice article

  3. Windows20 March 20, 2010 at 6:52 am #

    If Windows 7 were to be a diaster like Windows Vista, Microsoft of course will be in serious trouble.

    The only way to avoid trouble is to release a new Windows OS every three years. If you take too long such as more then 5 years in which it happened to Vista. The software and hardware won’t be compatible. If Windows Vista were to be released in 2003, the compatibility issues would have been fewer. Anyway, Windows 7 have really prevent Linux from gaining market share.

    The OLD timeline.
    Windows XP released in 2001. Windows Vista would have been released in 2003. Windows 7 would have been released in 2005. Windows 8 would have been released in 2008. Windows 9 would have been released in 2010. Windows 10 or Midori would have been released on 2012.

    The NEW timeline. Windows XP released in 2001. Windows Vista released in 2007. Windows 7 released in 2009. Future: Windows 8 in possibly late 2011 or 2012. Windows 9 in 2014. Windows 10 or Midori in 2016.

    There you go. I created the old Windows timeline and the new timeline.

    I do expect Windows 8 to have full of new surprises and mind-blowing!

    I was wondering if Windows 8 would have Internet Explorer 10 and Windows Media Player 14?

  4. Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    Well first off you should mention that Windows 7 was created to make the anti-Vista people shut up. I use Windows Vista, have been for over a year now, and I haven’t witnessed anything horrible that was Vista’s fault. In fact, our Windows XP machine has had more trouble. So I would therefore assume that XP sucks and Vista is good. Of course, 7 added some features and improved Vista, and now that companies realize that have to stop being lazy and actually start supporting the new hardware, Windows 7 appears to be more successful. But trust me, Vista is just as good right now because people are respecting w7, which is just like Vista.

    • Aaron7pm March 20, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

      That Is a very good point, alot of the problems caused where actually from idiots installing vista on old XP computers, non-vista compatible.

      • Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

        Yes. And when Windows XP first came out, and you tried to upgrade your windows 98-2000 machine to XP, it cause the same problems as Vista did with XP. Only Microsoft ignored the complaints and soon the companies supported XP. Now it’s fully supported and every day I see hardware for Windows Vista. When windows 8 comes out, Windows 7 will be fully supported and 8 will need new hardware, and people will hate Windows 8 for six months and so on…

  5. Onuora Amobi March 20, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    I couldn’t agree more and alluded to it here..

    The biggest mistake Microsoft can make is to release a new OS on top of Windows 7 just because they want to stick to a schedule..

    Sometimes you have to be reasonable and if it aint broke, don’t fix it…


    • Randy October 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

      The point we may be missing is that OS were frequently updated to keep pace with hardware changes.  As we wait and wait for a Microsoft-based tablet in a light weight package like we saw handed out at BUILD, there is a real revolution going on here in terms of processors, batteries and operating systems.  The end result is going to change how we use personal computing technology forever.  I’m just not sure that what I am seeing in Win8 is as universal and powerful as I was expecting to see.  Thoughts?

      • Onuora Amobi October 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

        Keep in mind as Mike Halsey says, it’s just a developer preview. Let’s wait until we see the real Beta version before we can gauge the effectiveness… 

  6. Omoronovo March 20, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    That is a very valid point, and I completely agree with it. However, I think Microsoft have to give themselves a tight schedule, that way they have a LOT of breathing room so they can see EXACTLY what areas of the new operating system need work.

    That was one of the primary reason Vista was so badly delayed; that, and the horror that was the Summer of Worms – it forced Microsoft to prioritise Windows XP SP2 over Vista; and when SP2 was done, Vista was suddenly based on code that was insecure, old, and incompatible and had to be started again from scratch. After that, Microsoft kept trying to add features, ended up with feature creep and bloat, and wasted far too much time releasing RC’s and Beta’s that were incompatible with each other – it made software development a pain.

    I hope the success of Windows 7 lets Microsoft carry that over to the next “major” release (Which will be the first Major release with the Windows group under command of Ballmer and Steven Sinofsky), and Windows 8 won’t be perceived as Vista/ME 2012 edition.

    • Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

      Windows 7 does not perform as well as XP for gaming and video production, even on high end hardware. Windows 8 may be the first OS to actually outperform XP, but this will only happen if processor technology advances in the meantime.

      • Omoronovo March 21, 2010 at 1:35 am #

        I’m not sure what you consider “High End”, but any system I’ve compared XP to Windows 7 on has either broke even or performed within the limits of benchmark variancy (+-5%).

        Could you give me some evidence to support your claim?

        • Anonymous March 21, 2010 at 11:31 am #

          I have never heard of Windows 7 coming that close to XP in FPS in modern games. In Windows 7’s defense, you can argue that XP only supports DX9 and can’t really be compared because of that. But speed is speed, and XP wins the raw speed battle easily according to all gamers I have heard from.
          Personally, on my Core 2 Quad Q6600 and Nvidia 8800GT graphics card, Windows 7 freezes when in demanding video rendering or even file copying/cutting pasting situations. The speed race is tightening up though with better processors, and Windows 8 may finally catch up to XP on tomorrow’s processors.

          • Omoronovo March 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

            I am sorry to sound harsh here, but are you seriously basing this entire argument around an anecdote regarding gamers you’ve spoken to? Do you have any real evidence (benchmarks from reputable reviewers) on modern hardware (sorry to break this to you, but a 5-year old graphics card paired with a 4-year old processor is neither a modern system nor a high end one), at all?

            Do you SERIOUSLY think Windows 7 would be coming to a halt playing a video, when Windows 7 can run even the most demanding of video on an Intel integrated graphics chipset with an atom processor that performs similarly to a netburst celeron? You’re obviously experiencing some other error, and like most people, you are far too lazy/ignorant/busy to find the root cause, and instead blame Windows. Because of course, that’s always the problem.

            Again, apologies for making this more of a rant than a level headed rebuttal, but I’m sure you can see how often I am forced to show people how wrong their misconceptions are about Windows 7 – so many people just think it’s “Vista V2 SP3” instead of bothering to actually use it for an extended period of time to see for themselves.

            One final thing: Windows 7 has had one of the best product launches in Windows history. There have been no major flaws discovered, there have been no major performance problems (Edge cases always exist, but even those have been minimised considerably). Despite that, you are still comparing a 10-year matured OS with one barely 6 months old. As soon as developers stop bothering with archaic operating systems like XP (archaic in terms of it’s age – no operating system can ever possibly be designed to last 10 years, that’s more than 6 generations of processor tech alone, and impossible to think ahead for), the benefits of Windows Vista/Windows 7 will come to a head. For now, with developers forced to find the most efficient way to code for both platforms, they cannot properly optimise drivers and applications for the new (and better) codebase.

          • Anonymous March 22, 2010 at 1:44 am #

            The Nvidia GeForce 8800GT and Intel 6600 Core 2 Quad are barely 3 years old (possibly less) and they are still better than what anyone else I know personally are using on brand new computers from Best Buy. I made an error listing the 6600, the processor I have been using for the last couple of years is a Core 2 Quad 9450, which is even newer and better.
            After beta testing Windows 7 x64 at least 12 hours a day from November 2008 till the RTM was released last summer, I had to face the fact that it just is not up to par with XP x64 for video production work after consistently slower render times and frequent crashing that I have never experienced in XP. It is a much improved Vista SP3, but even with its advanced multi-core optimizations it still is too bloated to beat a properly configured XP. It is too far ahead of its time in terms of hardware optimization and still has unique problems like core parking and sophisticated DRM that require hacking to overcome.
            I look forward to Windows 8, I might be ready to move on by then.

          • Omoronovo March 22, 2010 at 3:42 am #

            The Geforce 8800 series was released November 2006. The GT is the same chip, on a newer manufacturing process. The GPU is therefore, 3 and a half years old.

            The Core 2 Quad series of chips were released around the same time; the Q6600 about 3 months later.

            Now, I still seem to find that you have put up no actual evidence to support your claims. I can see Windows XP running better than Vista and Windows 7 on hardware of its time – Pentium 4’s, Athlon 64’s, and the like. I love how you suggest that XP64 is actually related to regular XP in the same way Vista 32/64 and Win7 32/64 are, though. Let me give you a brief history lesson.

            Windows XP 32bit is based off the Windows 2000 kernel, and including consumer-level features from Windows Millennium. It was released in 2001, and Microsoft had thought (rightly so) that 64-bit would not be available mainstream until their next operating system release. Therefore, they made no effort to develop a 64-bit version of XP to get it out the door in time.

            And there comes the problem. AMD released the original x86_64 processors, in 2003. Vista had been put on hold indefinitely until Windows XP SP2 was complete, which means that they were then ALSO forced to add extensions to XP to allow 64-bit computing. Their answer? Cannibalise Windows Server 2003 (Which was based off Windows 2000 Advanced server, which was based directly on NT 4.0. See the point I’m making? Windows XP64 is completely different from XP32; the codebases are not developed together, and it’s more like Windows Server 2003.1 with the server restrictions removed. That’s why XP64 and XP32 use different patching processes, why the keys are not interchangeable, and why Windows XP64 only has one service pack released for it (it’s “SP1” was integrated as soon as the OS was released, and SP2 is the latest (and final) one for Server 2003/XP64).

            I love how you say that “Core parking” is a problem, when it is one of the newest (and best) multi-core power saving technologies developed for Windows 7. Either you have the term confused for something else, or you don’t understand what it does. Core parking refers to the operating system keeping threads on specific cores, rather than jumping them around between cores (as XP and Vista do). This allows the other cores to power down, reducing heat and power usage. Unfortunately, using a core 2 quad means you won’t see any benefit since the cores do not phase independently, but people using Phenom 1/phenom 2/turion/athlon 64 processors, and anyone using nehalem-based processors, will see the benefits of this technology.

            I love how you mention DRM as well – the DRM in Windows 7 is only activated when you’re playing a bluray disc – as you clearly have a thing for XP, it’s obviously not something you’d be doing anyway. If you are, you’re using a third party program, which installs the VERY SAME DRM components anyway!

            I’m honestly not willing to continue this debate any longer, I have made the points and you still have been unable to provide me any tangible evidence to say that Windows XP (Or even 64, which you didn’t mention in your original comment) is in fact better, substantially, than Windows 7.

          • Anonymous March 23, 2010 at 4:53 am #

            The 8800GT was released on October 29th 2007. You called it five years old, it is less than two and a half. My Q9450 processor was released in February 2008. As far as XP or XP x64, the proof is in the pudding, and I “have a thing” for the most reliable and speediest operating system since my day to day livelihood depends on it. XP is not for everyone and I am not recommending it for everyone, but after some disastrous crashes and consistently slower work speeds using Windows 7, XP has been there for me, and Windows 7 has not.

  7. Windows20 March 21, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    In 2006, I wanted to upgrade my Windows 98 to Windows XP. There was compatibility issues with the printer and 56K modem. Then my father said don’t upgrade it.

    • Anonymous March 21, 2010 at 10:16 am #

      and around that time people said XP sucked and hate it. Now it’s the most used OS.

      • Mustafa Mohamed March 21, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

        Absolutely true! I remember when XP was first released and how many reacted negatively to it.

        Although Windows 7 is getting good press and public response, I’ve witnessed people panning it. Sometimes even for no apparent reason. A few months ago, we had someone (not very experienced) from our ISP come over to set up their COMPULSORY modem and when the wireless connection wasn’t working, he simply blamed Windows 7 and complained that it’s not compatible (?!!)

        • Anonymous March 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

          Yes. Windows 8 is going to get attacked badly. It will require more resources and better hardware. The companies that make it will get lazy and Windows 8 won’t work on most computers. Then a year later everyone will use it and love it.

  8. Feloneouscat June 22, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    The time line for Microsoft has nothing to do with “good/bad” or hardware. This shows an ignorance in the community about how business is run.

    What it has to do with is revenue stream (or lack thereof).

    Vista was SUPPOSED to be the “next big thing”. Microsoft sunk a lot of money in it. When it underperformed (people still perceived XP as being better), they had to do a quick reanalysis. They expected a decent revenue stream from it.

    It didn’t happen.

    Instead, rightly or wrongly, people still wanted XP. They wanted something they were familiar with and “just worked” as opposed to Vista which had all sorts of horror stories. There was also a lot of confusion as to which version of Vista to buy – and no wonder given the number of different versions!

    The major problem in all of this is Microsoft failed to understand their customer base (or didn’t care to understand them). When this happens, you end up with products like Vista. When you take your customers for granted, this is what happens.

    But make no mistake about it – Windows 7 is purely a move to recover the cost of Vista and retain customers.

  9. Anonymous August 2, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    i use vista and windows 7. i absolutely love windows 7 and i never hated vista. vista way better than xp. windows 7 is way better than vista. ppl who downgraded to xp have no idea what they were giving up.

    ppl who havent used vista hate it bcaz some dumb journalist said so.

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