Microsoft wants to harness the power of the crowd. It's taking a lesson from other companies that have taken advantage of two-way communications with customers, clients, fans and detractors to fine-tune product development. The product: Windows 7. Perhaps the OS dev team has been reading about Dell's success with the IdeaStorm project, or other customer community efforts, which IT Business Edge's Ann All has been covering. Or more inclusive dev approaches in other Microsoft groups, like Xbox.
Getting the ball rolling is the Engineering Windows 7 blog, where senior engineers Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan vow they and their teams will apply what they've learned from the Vista rollout to create "an open and honest, and two-way, discussion..." as they build toward the Windows 7 release, set for 2010 (or maybe 2009). In their first post, they mention that they've been watching very carefully what's being discussed so far in other blogs and plan to modify their approach to "disclosure" with an eye toward managing expectations. Remember back in February when e-mails on this very lesson between Sinofsky and colleagues were publicly circulated? Sinofsky seems to get that he's going to have to do as much listening as writing. He's asked blog readers to feel free to e-mail him directly with ideas and questions. The team's aim: make the release match the promise so that unpleasant surprises for partners or customers are minimized, if not eliminated.
They'll also be getting technical at the October Professional Developers Conference and the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference. Some iteration of a beta version is expected to be ready then, with emphasis on touchscreen technology and virtualization support.
Unfortunately, the Windows 7 message can't get out of the gate without squeezing by the Vista message, which colors even pointed discussions like Sinofsky's and DeVaan's blog. It's also got to compete with the Midori noise, which could, over the next few months, become even more of a distraction as folks learn more about the non-Windows operating system. Taking actions on lessons learned from the Vista rollout and reception is admirable, but the Windows 7 team is doubly challenged by a working environment framed by the current latest and greatest and the following latest and greatest OS from Redmond.