Yo, Microsoft: Ignore Vista to Ensure Windows 7 Success

I refuse to print hype from Microsoft about how wonderful their Windows 7 operating system will be when it ships in a year or two. However, it may be time to start moderating the craziness for small businesses reading the hype elsewhere. For this chore, I turn to an article from last week, “10 Things Windows 7 Must Do To Succeed. Word to the Wise: Think XP” from a long-ago friend, David Coursey.

Before Coursey moved from Dallas to California a decade or more ago, he organized local technical press writer lunches. His pull brought in big names and big vendors. He did such a good job those same vendors often hosted the lunches for the pleasure of getting publicly blasted by Coursey. He's a big, imposing guy, and was better than almost anyone at stripping away the BS from vendors in public forums in a way that had them asking for more. Pity the poor vendor spokesperson who didn't know the product details well enough to speak intelligently.

Now he's written a targeted advice column for Microsoft, telling them 10 things Windows 7 must do to succeed. His focus is large business customers, but the article provides good advice for smaller businesses as well. My favorite part of Coursey's advice, and number one on his list, is for Microsoft to ignore Vista and make sure Windows 7 provides a smooth transition from XP.

Reports from beta testers indicate XP drivers work fine in Windows 7. Wow, what a bizarre concept – making an upgrade work properly. Since Vista failed the upgrade test in ways trumpeted in headlines around the world, let's hope the noise penetrated even stubborn Microsoft executive's thick, arrogant skulls, and they actually make the upgrade process work like their customers need it to work. You know, like Apple does with their upgrades. I'm referencing Coursey here, but the few upgrades I've done on my Mac work much better than any I've done on Windows over the years.

As of now, Windows 7 doesn't upgrade an existing XP installation. I think that's a serious mistake on Microsoft's part. Coursey demands there be an easy way, using thumb drivers or data DVDs, to upgrade XP in place to Windows 7 and keep all your applications and settings etc. I'll go one step further: either make an easy in-place upgrade process, or work with all the major desktop management applications to automatically pull personal data off to network storage, run the XP to 7 upgrade, and “re-personalize” the PC as part of the upgrade process. Do this without user intervention.

If Microsoft screws up the launch of Windows 7 like they did the Vista launch, they'll lose an enormous amount of credibility and respect in the marketplace. We all gave Microsoft a pass on Vista, because they rarely get it right the first time. But if they blow it big time with Windows 7, good will and respect will be lost in huge amounts.

So, Microsoft, listen to Coursey, and make sure his 10 check off items are properly checked off. And listen to me when I say even the friendliest golf foursome never gives a player two mulligans in a row.

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