ViennaMicrosoft just posted the other day that they do not want to give up any details in regard to the next milestone release of Windows. I really don’t blame them for not wanting to disclose any details because that is when they end up pinning themselves in a corner. They should give it a little while to make sure they are on track to meet their 2009 delivery date, and then start sharing some of the details with the public.

They are indeed working on the next operating system which has had the name Vienna removed and is now being called Windows 7. I’m not sure why they ditched the cool name and replaced it with a version number, but maybe it has something to do with the name Vienna being so close to Vista, and they are trying to avoid confusion. Maybe a new name will emerge as the development process continues, or maybe they will bring back the old codename: Blackcomb! ;)

So what is in the future for Windows? As noted above the list of features that the next version of Windows will possess is still in the works, but Paul Thurrott has started a FAQ’s site for Windows 7 that makes some interesting points. Here are a few things that are mentioned:

  • Windows Vienna will only be a “minor” release because Microsoft currently makes every other Windows release a major one. Vienna is estimated to ship in 2009 which means the next major release of Windows should be around 2011.
  • Vienna will include a new version of Windows Explorer that will take on some of the properties from the Ribbon in Office 2007. There is no doubt in my mind that Microsoft should center more of the operating system around what the Office 2007 team has already done with the Ribbon. With the Ribbon new users are able to easily find what they are looking for because commands and options are intuitively located through the application. Windows Explorer in Vista has gotten a small facelift but there is still a lot of room for improvement, and a Ribbon-like system might be just what it needs.
  • To keep up with Microsoft’s x64 migration schedule there will probably be no 32–bit version of Vienna offered. While this might be true it is hard for me to believe that the next version of Windows will not be compatible with computers that are still being sold today. The dual-core and 64–bit processors are becoming more prominent so maybe Microsoft ditching the 32–bit operating system isn’t so unrealistic.

Designed for WindowsWhile the suspense of not knowing what will come next in Windows is exciting, I think it can also lead to the implementation of features that users may not actually want. It seems like there is a growing trend of companies turning to their users for input on what they would like to see in future products and Microsoft should do that, too. Microsoft needs to find ways to get more involved with the communities and people on the Internet by letting them participate in the design, even if it does only include voting.

Maybe Microsoft should do something like MyDreamApp and let users submit application ideas, and then whatever program gets the most votes they will implement to include with the next Windows release. Not only would the community become interested in the voting process, but I think people would also be more inclined to follow the progress of Windows.

So now I’ll leave you with two questions:

  • What would you like to see in the next version of Windows?
  • What can Microsoft do to get people more involved/interested in the next Windows release?

More information on Vista’s successors (Vienna and Fiji)