On his blog, a software test engineer in Redmond had this ridiculous thing to say:
“I will say that if you are impressed by the “touch features” in the iPhone, you’ll be blown away by what’s coming in Windows 7.”
First, what’s with the phrase “touch features”? Did he think referring to it generically in quotes would minimize the iPhone’s interface? Come on, guy, say it with me: Multi-Touch. This is a bona-fide user interface with over 200 patents running on a successful, shipping hardware platform. It’s really silly (if not ignorant) to try blowing it off with the use of a quoted phrase.
Mind you, that phrase does have its uses. There’s no question the alleged “iPhone killers” of late — which basically throw up touch-screen menus in front of the standard Windows Mobile, Symbian, or Palm OS — can truthfully be categorized as only “touch features”. Maybe Win 7 can blow them away, but that’s hardly something to brag about. It’s somewhat akin to being the tallest midget; a dubious distinction at best.
Aside from the above, why do I consider his statement ridiculous? I’ll list a few reasons here in no particular order:
- The Phone is currently available. I know Microsoft would rather people talk about what they hope Microsoft will deliver in the future than the stuff they’re shipping now, but some people are more interested in what they can actually, you know, buy and use today.
- Windows 7.0 (a.k.a. Vienna) isn’t even scheduled until late 2009, and Microsoft’s track record indicates the reality is that it won’t ship until 2010 or later. It’s just silly to brag about it now.
- Any “touch features” this guy is testing in Win 7 are very premature, half of what he thinks he’s seeing will be dropped from the shipping product anyway.
- Just as it’s safe to assume Microsoft will not deliver for three years, it’s known that Apple’s Multi-Touch interface is already in use by 1.5M people (and climbing). It will have matured and improved considerably — and its user base greatly increased — in those same three years. Bottom line is this guy doesn’t have a clue what competition Vienna will be facing in 2010.
- It shows a bit of desperation that — even before the first Vista Service Pack is available — there’s the beginnings of vaporware talk about Vienna. This is of course the classic Microsoft strategy from the 90’s; maybe old habits die hard. Besides, I guess it beats talking about Vista.
I believe the days of freezing the market with a flood of Microsoft vapor about the future — and fooling the tech community completely — are over. Sure, some die-hard IT managers and old-world tech reporters will believe and print anything out of Redmond, but it’s not necessarily because they believe it. It’s because they don’t want to learn or do anything different, it would kill their careers.
But more and more new blood is coming into IT these days, and they’re more open-minded. Soon the last holdout of Microsoft doggedness and ignorance of alternatives will begin to wear away. That will be a good thing for the tech world in general. Not because it means the end of Microsoft (I’d love to see what their talent pool could do with better leadership), but rather it means one company will no longer set the agenda for years at a time and fail to deliver.