Microsoft would appear to be getting back to basics as it continues its so far near-flawless execution of Windows 7 delivery but I wonder if it is doing anything more than digging a decent trench as the world moves inexorably from client/server computing to the web.
The feature line-up, pricing and risk-averse attitude to compatibility should ensure that Windows 7 is luckier for Microsoft than Vista, a product that has become for the software giant what New Coke was to Coca-Cola. With Windows 7, Microsoft is making all the right noises and seems determined to win back its reputation as the most competent software development, marketing and sales all-rounder organisation in the world. There are even pay cuts for executives in an attempt to win back positive sentiment. Good stuff and straight from the technology marketing canon.
However, there's something a little ancien regime about Redmond's movements here. It's perhaps symbolic that Windows 7 early adopters for Microsoft -- named and asked to speak up in a classic Microsoft lure to win over doubters -- will include Ford, Continental Airlines and Intel as early adopters. The first two are icons of American commerce that have been horribly damaged by changes in their respective sectors. The third, of course, is Microsoft's fellow axis power in computer platforms and has also spent the last few years returning to basics after its own version of Vista in the shape of the Itanium processor and the occasional successes achieved by its historically distant number-two AMD in recent years.
The fear for Microsoft is that web applications will cut through client/server and its core Windows and Office franchises very quickly. It has been an indirectly acknowledged by Microsoft with its Web App online versions of Office tools but the company knows that customers considering a platform change will look harder than ever at alternative providers. That could lead to the kind of damming of revenue streams Microsoft has been famous for inflicting on the likes of WordPerfect, Novell, Lotus and others in the past.
Looking towards the end of 2010, I'd expect to see Windows 7 hailed as a solid, if unspectacular, success but a perhaps more interesting parallel line will be the progress of Google Docs/Apps -- and word of mouth suggests a lot of big deals are close to dropping.