Can the New Version of Windows Undo the Damage of the Last?

The introduction of Windows 7 today is not a big deal for Microsoft. It's a huge and critical deal. As The Wall Street Journal reports from the launch event in New York today, the new operating system needs to address the perceived shortcomings of its predecessor, Windows Vista — especially among business customers. Information technology managers largely shunned Vista, launched in January 2007, because of a reputation for bugs and a level of complexity so high that many customers would have had to buy new computer hardware to run the system.

"Microsoft made a mistake with this one," Wharton management professor Lawrence Hrebiniak told Knowledge at Wharton in a May 2008 article about Microsoft's future after Vista. "The company introduced something more complicated than [its predecessor, Windows] XP, and it requires more hardware." Wharton operations and information management professor Shawndra Hill called Vista "too complicated" and unnecessary. "We had Windows XP and were using it fine. Then Microsoft decided to provide us with something new. But there wasn't anything really new" about it.

Early reviews of the new system should cheer Microsoft. PCWorld magazine reports today that a survey of people who tested beta versions of the Windows 7 "suggests an adoption rate not matched since the introduction of Windows 2000, the acceptance of which was driven by Y2K fears." The survey, which was conducted by Information Technology Intelligence and Sunbelt Software, found that 78% of those beta testers had a good or excellent experience. "This strongly suggests that Microsoft has finally found the 'sweet spot' that Windows Vista so widely missed."

Notes The Journal: "Windows 7 also debuts as Microsoft struggles with problems it has never faced. In April, the company reported its first quarterly revenue contraction in its 23-year history as a public company. Windows accounts for between a quarter and a half of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's $58 billion in annual sales." At the launch event today, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer declared that "today is an important day for the computer industry. Certainly for Microsoft."

Certainly for Microsoft, indeed.