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IBM Tries To Ruin Windows 7's Coronation Day

When Microsoft released Vista a few years ago, we trumpeted the launch event with a post in RCPU simply titled, "Vista!" It was, we suppose, meant to convey some sense of excitement about the arrival of the long-awaited operating system that would gracefully lift the desktop crown from the head of XP and reign over us with benevolence and majesty.  

But instead of reigning over us, Vista rained on us. It poured application incompatibilities, outrageous hardware requirements, draconian user access control and all sorts of other big, wet drops of nastiness on our heads. Well, about three years and many, many jokes at Vista's expense later, we find ourselves writing an edition of RCPU for the coronation of Windows 7, which will try to wrest the OS crown from the arthritic but mighty hands of Good King XP.

For this launch, though, we're toning our enthusiasm down considerably. Yes, we've heard that Windows 7 is great. We feel fairly confident based on reviews, reader feedback and analyst babble that Windows 7 will do what Vista couldn't: become the next flagship Microsoft OS and probably the next default OS for personal and corporate computing.

Before we go on, let's restate one thing that everybody who reads RCPU must know: We do not work for Microsoft. We do not promote Microsoft, nor do we serve to promote Microsoft. We are advocates for companies in the Microsoft channel -- our target audience -- but we endeavor always to cover Microsoft objectively and without bias, positive or negative. In a few Web searches, your editor has found comments on other sites suggesting that RCPU is somehow a promotional vehicle for Microsoft and its products. That's just not the case. Most of you know this, of course, but those who don't should learn it.

That's not the reason, though, that we're taking it easy on Windows 7 hype. For one, today's launch is just a formality; many, if not most, of our readers have at least used Windows 7, and there are no doubt large numbers of you who run the OS every day. Beyond that, the launch of a new version of Windows isn't what it used to be. It might still feel a bit like a coronation, but the empire is shrinking.

Windows is still the king of desktop computing, an OS that really competes only against itself (for now) and continues to dominate mainly because IT people and other workers alike are used to it and don't want to go through the hassle and expense of implementing something else. The Microsoft channel also has a lot to do with Windows' success; we're pretty confident in stating that it's easier (and probably cheaper) to find a Microsoft MVP partner who can perform implementations or fix problems than it is to find a Linux or Mac expert.

So, Windows 7, if it's not a repeat of Vista, will probably take over the OS world. But for how long will Microsoft be king of the software mountain? And when will other computing models -- specifically cloud computing -- start to make the OS itself irrelevant, thereby making Windows' dominance a fond memory for Microsoft and its partners?

Just this week, obviously timed for the Windows 7 launch, IBM and Canonical (the distributor of Ubuntu Linux) revealed that they've teamed up to provide a relatively inexpensive cloud-Linux combo for the desktop called IBM Client for Smart Work. Now, we don't really suspect that this offering, intriguing as it is, will make a serious dent in Windows' market share.

In fact, if Windows really is going to cease to be emperor of the desktop at some point, it'll likely die the death of a thousand cuts rather than get bludgeoned in the head with one single offering from a competitor. Google, IBM, Linux, cloud computing in general, even the Mac -- they're all making inroads into the enterprise, and as their ecosystems grow and gain influence, the undeniable expense of Windows compared to other alternatives will start to make less and less sense.

The real strength of Windows, then, is you, the Microsoft partner. It's your expertise, availability and numbers -- along with the familiarity companies have with Windows itself -- that will keep Microsoft on top in the enterprise and make Windows 7 a success (again, as long as Windows 7 isn't another Vista -- nobody could fix that).

Of course, at the same time as they're moving clients to Windows 7, partners also have to be adapting to changing computing models, preparing for the onslaught of cloud and mobile technologies that are already here and will only grow in the future. In the meantime, though, today represents less a day of celebration than a day of commitment.

Partners, the work of pulling Microsoft out of its funk and keeping it on top of the software market (and filling your wallets at the same time) is beginning anew with today's release of Windows 7. It's your job to make sure that Windows is able to step down as emperor when its time comes rather than being deposed. Hopefully Microsoft has given you something to work with in the form of Windows 7. But now is the time to work, not to celebrate.

Have any comments about Windows 7 to add to the huge pile we already have? Send them to lpender@rcpmag.com. Your thoughts are always welcome.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 22, 2009 at 11:55 AM