Windows 7 Upgrade Chaos Looms

Businesses that plan on skipping Vista to move directly from XP to Windows 7 could face application-compatibility headaches.
Microsoft confirmed this week that its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system and the widely maligned Vista OS share the same basic architecture -- and that's a good thing, the company says.

"Because Windows 7 is built on the same kernel as Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, there are no changes that are going to require a reworking of that ecosystem," said Microsoft senior VP Steven Sinofsky, who spoke Tuesday at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

Vista was plagued by application incompatibilities when it debuted in January of last year. The OS featured a number of architectural changes -- particularly at the security level -- that broke compatibility with applications built for Windows XP and other previous Microsoft operating systems.

Microsoft claims that won't happen with Windows 7 -- as long as users are working with applications that are Vista-compatible. "All of the devices and all of the compatibility work that has gone on in the past two years of Windows Vista will pay off in the work that we've done with Windows 7," said Sinofsky.

The problem is that few enterprises have upgraded systems to Vista. According to one recent survey in the United Kingdom, only 4% of businesses in that country have switched to Vista. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the business uptake rate for Vista in the United States isn't much higher. IT managers for the state of Maine recently confirmed that the state will bypass Vista and await the rollout of Windows 7.

Most organizations continue to use XP on their business computers. Microsoft, however, officially retired XP earlier this year. That means that, at some point in the next couple of years, most companies are going to have to undergo a significant overhaul of their application infrastructure in order to keep pace with Microsoft's road map.

Microsoft previously warned its customers that skipping Vista might only forestall upgrade headaches.

For the record, Microsoft has said that it expects to introduce Windows 7 in 2010 -- but numerous signs indicate that Vista's successor could be available sooner than that.

Microsoft spent the past week heavily promoting and publicizing Windows 7 at PDC. The company performed numerous live demonstrations of the operating system in action and has published a slew of screenshots. "We're pretty excited about the work that we've done on performance," said Sinofsky.

It all points to the fact that Windows 7 development is well advanced.

Microsoft stated that it will introduce a beta version of Windows 7 "early next year." That could give Microsoft and its developers enough time to kick the tires on the OS to roll out a final version prior to year's end.