Although the exact release date remains shrouded in secrecythe push in the channel to make sure Windows 7 has a better experience than Vista has already begun.
The launch of Vista saw distributors takingstocks they failed to shift and a lukewarm reaction from many businesses to theproposed upgrading away from Windows XP.
That experience left its impact on the vendor and this time around Microsoft ismaking a great deal of effort to prepare the channel and its customers for thearrival of its next operating system.
Compatibility and security
The main feedback the vendor received after Vistawas around compatibility and security.
As a result, the small business version of Windows 7 will have an XP modeallowing customers the chance to run old applications until they get to thepoint where they are in a position to upgrade.
“Users can continue to use those [XP] applications while they look at along-term solution,” says Laurence Painell, Windows 7 product manager atMicrosoft. He says the company is fully aware of the current economic situationmaking application upgrading less attractive.
The other bonus for customers worried about finances is that they can try thesystem before buying it, with an offer to download the release version whichwent online earlier this year and use it until June 2010.
There is also improved security with encryption options spread from the harddrive to portable storage.
“We have seen a drive to people working from home and they will be able to usefeatures like direct access,” adds Painell.
Plans for the launch, which Painell says “will be no later than January 2010”,make extensive mention of the need for confidence and the importance of thechannel having fully understood the product.
“One of the key things is readiness and ensuring the partner communityunderstands Windows 7, whether in business or in the consumer market,” saysSimon Aldous, partner group manager at Microsoft.
Some of that work has involved checking the channel is aligned properly andthere are enough resellers, VARs, retailers, system builders and LARs ready tosell the product.
He acknowledges that Microsoft carried out a lot of work in the channel in therun-up to Vista but says the company couldhave done more to make things click more easily.
“We probably didn’t do a good enough job last time. We got feedback [from thechannel] and we are addressing it this time,” he adds.
The result of the vendor’s determination to “be far smarter” this time aroundis already apparent and can be seen in its regional reseller activities andnumerous roadshows organised with its distributors.
The beta version of Windows 7 has already been downloaded by thousands ofpeople. Painell says a number of key partners have already been using theproduct.
Come the launch, the company’s aim is that the channel will be thoroughlyfamiliar with the product, brushed up on the salient points to include in pitchesto one-man-bands up to enterprise customers, and trained on all licensingaspects associated with the product.
The release clearly matters to Microsoft but, as the channel found outpainfully with Vista, it also matters to the wider market and there will beplenty of determination to spend the next few weeks getting familiar with theproduct.
“If we can’t show the value in Windows 7 there is no belief to then go andadopt it,” concludes Aldous.