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How Microsoft Keeps Windows 7 Development Under Control

While a number of prerelease builds have leaked, Windows 7 hasn't been the start-and-stop, leak-heavy development cycle that Windows Vista was.

Windows 7 screen shot
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For months and months, Microsoft kept silent about Windows 7.

After a limited demo last May, the first public comments started trickling out last August in Microsoft's Engineering Windows 7 blog, and the floodgates opened by the end of October at the company's Professional Developers Conference. It's all been part of the plan, and a far cry from how Microsoft handled Windows Vista before its release.

Windows boss Steven Sinofsky is known for his controlled, on-time delivery of products, most notably the well-received Office 2007 suite. His strategy has been hypercontrolled this time around. While a number of prerelease builds have leaked, Windows 7 hasn't been the start-and-stop, leak-heavy development cycle that Windows Vista was. That even caused some consternation among interested customers early in the process, as public information on Windows 7 was so sparse.

"With Windows Vista, even before we wrote the code, people were talking about features," Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft's senior director of Windows client product management for enterprise customers, said in an interview. Leaks were rampant, uncontrolled, and unsubstantiated. Features would be discussed and never heard from again. Not this time, Schuster insisted.

With Windows 7, Schuster said, Microsoft decided that it wouldn't disclose features publicly before it was "very clear" on whether the feature would be in the operating system and what it would look like. It also created a firm release timeframe -- about three years after the Vista release -- and decided to stick with it so that unlike Vista, Windows 7 wouldn't come five years after the previous Windows edition.

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