I’m so excited about the release of Windows 7. Yes, really, an old Linux tragic like me can’t wait for Microsoft’s next-generation OS. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft should stop learning. Far from it. Let’s consider the perfect number of moves Redmond can make to take a leaf out of Linux’s book – for the benefit of all.
The number 7 has held a special place in numerology and mythology for centuries. Wikipedia even has page explaining its significance at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_(number).
When Windows 7 hits the scene on October millions of people will be immersed in the number 7 for the foreseeable future. How do you make something perfect even better? You learn from your competitors.
So without dwelling on the number, here are seven ways Windows 7 can improve by adopting concepts from Linux.
1. More frequent release cycles. As I’ve already explained, Microsoft’s worst enemy has been its very long release cycles. Linux distributors, on the other hand, have the opposite problem – too frequent release cycles. But what would a consumer be more interested in, an operating system that’s eight years old (Windows XP) or one that’s updated every year or even six months? Fresh product releases mean fresh marketing and Microsoft knows this. From Windows 7 on it’s bye, bye many year release cycles and hello two year cycles at the most.
2. Sane release versioning. Okay, before anyone comments about how INSANE Linux distribution release versioning is, it’s still not as bad as Windows. Yes, there is a systematic way in which Microsoft versions its Windows releases, but that’s been hidden behind the marketing hoopla. We’ve had Windows 3.1, 95, NT, 98, 2000, Me, XP, Vista and 7 which makes perfect sense. Suddenly Ubuntu’s 7.10, 8.04, 8.10, 9.04, etc, doesn’t seem so silly after all. Nor does Fedora’s 8, 9, 10. Mac OS X? This stays the same with just minor release versions and code names - brilliant for the not so tech savvy. Dumb it down Microsoft. If you’re going to name a product Windows 7, release Windows 8 after it, not “Windows Panorama” or “Windows 2012”.
3. Online OS upgrades. One thing Linux does well is allow users to perform a major OS release upgrade online. Microsoft’s boxed set cash cow may prevent this from happening soon, but it’s something that definitely should be on its radar. Want to upgrade to the next version? Click a box, pay for it and download it over the Internet. The same can be said about third party applications as well.
4. Better web app integration. If Microsoft learns anything from Linux or Mac OS X, it should be that today’s desktop user is obsessed with web apps and will do anything to get Facebook and Twitter functionality at their fingertips. The KDE hackers wrote an entire widget development framework for transferring data over the Internet, and it’s now available with every modern Linux distribution. I have no doubt Windows 7 will have enough clout to force developers into writing web 2.0 widgets. The big questions are how much traction it will get, and how long will it take. Will the native Windows 7 widgets capture people’s interest the way the others have? Microsoft needs to make it happen.