Windows 7 and what it says about end users

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I was amazed to learn that Microsoft is, for the first time, releasing an application compatibility testing kit before the release of a new Windows 7 operating system, which will be launched later in the year.

Why hasn’t this happened before?

When Vista was launched, the compatibility toolkit was launched alongside the operating system. With earlier versions of Windows, the toolkit came out after the OS was launched.

At first sight this seems utterly perverse. If Microsoft wants businesses to adopt its new operating system, then it should allow them plenty of time to test their apps on it.

Even when you take into account the reasons Microsoft may have advanced in the past for delaying the release of the toolkit, the situation still seems bizarre.

Of course the major software houses will have early access to Microsoft’s forthcoming code and will be working to make their products compatible.

Of course Microsoft itself makes many changes to the OS functionality and code even very late in the day – something it has promised to do less of with Windows 7.

Of course the final code has been buggy – which is why businesses have been reluctant to upgrade until after the first Service Pack has been launched and tested.

But, despite all this, and the fact that organisations don’t want to test on code that may not be released in the final Windows operating system, I am surprised that end users haven’t, in the past, put pressure on Microsoft for earlier access to testing products.

Perhaps, if they had done, it might have brought more discipline to bear on Microsoft’s own development practices, encouraging them to better define the scope and functionality of the new features they were releasing.

This is precisely the role that user groups play with SAP and Oracle, for example. As far as I know there are no independent Microsoft user groups. The ones that existed in the UK were killed off by the last recession.

Perhaps this recession will see their rebirth – as organisations look to self-help and peer group advice – rather than expensive consulting to get them through the downturn.

User groups are always good for their members and, almost invariably, good for the suppliers too.