Microsoft Gives a Month for Seven

Okay, it's time to revisit Windows Seven Dates and my Vienna Timeline. Network World reports (see also the slashdot discussion) that Microsoft is now putting a specific month to their projected release date: January 2010.

Of course, that doesn't mean it'll actually be available in January 2010. Haha. No. In the first place, the date can and probably will still slip a bit. In the second place, new versions of Windows are never actually available to the public on the official release date. No, they become available only to select partners on the official release date. (Select partners, in Microsoft parlance, are the large multinational megacorporations whose Software Assurance licensing allows them to install any version they want, any time they want, on any computer they want. Typically the IT departments of these large corporations would never in a million years actually deploy a brand new release the same year it comes out. Most of them have only moved from Windows 2000 to Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP in the last few months; some of them still haven't.) Actual availability to the public comes several months later. That's how it was with Windows '95 (officially released in December 2005; not available until 2006), Windows XP, and Vista. There's no reason to believe Seven would be different in this regard.

Nonetheless, their putting a specific month on their release prediction is significant. Very significant. There's a lot less wiggle-room in a month than there is in a vague projection like "early 2010", and in the past Microsoft has usually not projected specific months until they're legitimately close to having something they believe they can bang into release-quality shape in approximately that amount of time.

If you look at my timeline, it doesn't call for a specific-month release projection until 2016Q2, less than a year from actual release in 2017. Going by just that alone, one could be excused for concluding that my timeline is off by eight years.

I don't think my timeline is off by quite that much. For one thing, even if Microsoft actually comes out with the product in January 2010, that's only seven years ahead of my timeline. Furthermore, the projection in question on my timeline is for a release date only two quarters forward from when it's projected; as of now January 2010 is still six quarters out, three times as far into the future. Historically, the further into the future a projection is, the more room there is for it to still be pushed back. I fully expect Microsoft to push back this release date at least once yet, and then on top of that I expect them to release to select partners only, buying a few extra months before actually shipping the new OS to the public.

Still, this caught me off guard, and I'm now very much convinced that my timeline is overlong, and that Microsoft will beat it by several years. Also there have been fewer feature announcements than I predicted, and I believe this is significant: Microsoft actually learned from the Vista development experience and is aiming somewhat lower for Seven, no doubt deliberately. More realistic goals, less wasted time. My timeline was written with the assumption that they had not learned this lesson, but it appears now that they have. Which is good, for Microsoft and for their customers.