The most telling comment from Microsoft's OS exec Ben Fathi about the next generation of Windows is not that it's expected in just two-and-a-half years or so.
It's that the new OS, codenamed for the moment "Vienna," will probably not be the massive retooling that multiplied the size of the code base from XP to Windows Vista.
TrustedReviews reports this morning that Fathi says the enormous effort Microsoft invested in XP SP2 actually played a big role in the five-year wait for Vista. Of course, many commentators actually viewed SP2 as a new version release -- Microsoft certainly didn't position it as such, and since so many of SP2's improvements were security-centric, the big changes weren't entirely obvious to typical users.
ITPro notes this morning that among the planned Vista features jettisoned in its painfully delayed birthing was the WinFS filing system. Fathi has also suggested that virtualization software may be tooled directly into the next Windows release.
All in all, Microsoft would be well-advised to adopt a more regular, scaled-back approach to OS updates, much like that employed by -- we'll say it -- Apple.
Aside from ongoing security headaches, no one was all that unhappy with Windows XP, at least so much that they were clamoring for a whole new Windows release. Incremental improvement -- particularly when it comes to all-important security infrastructure -- makes a lot of sense.