Windows 7 was released to manufacturing on July 22, and hit the shelves on October 22, generating obvious questions about what’s next for Microsoft’s proprietary operating system. And the answer is rather simple: Windows 8. This time around, the Redmond-based company made little efforts to hide the moniker associated with the next generation of the Windows client. Not that it could, given that the codename aspect of Windows development efforts is the only transparent aspect of the otherwise translucent communication strategy set in place by Steven Sinofsky, President, Windows and Windows Live Division.
Revolutionary vs. evolutionary
Back in early 2007, after Windows Vista shipped to customers worldwide, Microsoft shifted its focus on what was at the time referred to as Windows codename Vienna, and which ended up as Windows 7. The company delivered a taste of early plans, noting that it was aiming for a release ahead of 2009, but nothing more after that. In fact, it wasn’t until August 2008 that Sinofsky started sharing crumbs from the development process of Windows 7, at a time when the operating system was between the Milestone 2 and Milestone 3 development stages.
In this regard, it is interesting to understand just how early Microsoft actually started building the successor of Windows Vista. According to Larry Osterman, Microsoft Principal SDE, the Windows team was hard at work coding for Windows 7 within 4-5 months after the general availability of Vista. “In June of 2007, we started working on actual feature planning – the planning team had come up with a set of tentative features for Win7 and we started the actual design for the features – figuring out the user experience for the features, the internal implementation details, etc.,” Osterman noted.
With Windows 7 wrapped up, Sinofsky was upgraded to the President position from senior vice president of the Windows and Windows Live engineering group, but just as it was the case for Windows 7, Windows 8 will be developed in accordance with his vision. With Sinofsky at the helm of the Windows 8 project, Osterman could even expect the same development experience as for Windows 7.
“The remarkable thing about Win7 development was that it was almost friction free. During the Vista development process (and in every other product I’ve worked on) development was marked by a constant stream of new issues which were a constant drain on time an energy. It felt like we moved from one crisis to another crisis,” Osterman recalled. “For Win7 it was different. I think it was some time during the second milestone that I realized that Win7 was ‘special’. The newer development process that was deployed for Win7 was clearly paying off and my life was far less stressed. In fact I don’t think I worked late or came in on weekends once during the entire 3 years that Win7 was under development – this was a HUGE change. Every other product I’ve ever worked on has required late nights and weekends (sometime it required all-nighters). But for Win7 it just didn’t happen. Instead we set a set of goals that were reasonable with achievable schedules and we executed on those goals and delivered the features we promised.”
When it moved forward from Windows Vista (version 6.0) and Longhorn (Windows Server 2008) to Windows 7 (v6.1) and Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft chose the path of evolution rather than build a revolutionary OS. Another legitimate question about Windows 8 is whether the platform will continue to evolve, or whether Microsoft is ready for a revolution in Windows, even though the memory of what revolutionary meant for Vista is still fresh for customers. While only time will tell whichever way Microsoft will take Windows 8, one thing is clear, the Redmond-based company started planning for the next generation of Windows long before Windows 7 was finalized.
In addition, the software giant is also hiring people to start coding for Windows 8. If the development process described by Osterman still applies, Microsoft will begin building Windows 8 early in 2010, if not even earlier. However, just as is the case with all Windows platforms, the successor of Windows 7 will too have to go through a planning phase, where coding is left in the background, and the priority is putting together the actual feature set for the operating system. Still, don’t expect Microsoft to start talking Windows 8 until well into 2010, if not even 2011. After all, it took over a year since the Windows 7 coding had started for Sinofsky to share the first details on the engineering process of the project.
Just in October, Microsoft mentioned Windows 8 in a number of job posts:
- “IIS team is looking for an experienced PM to join our core platform team. Your role will span across driving key features into Windows 8 as well as owning several out-of-band modules, including web analytics that will bring business intelligence for the customers that host applications and contents on IIS. Your work will help differentiate IIS and Smooth Streaming from Apache and Flash. You should also be ready to work in a fast-paced environment and have a strong desire for quality, security, and performance. Your feature will be used by millions of customers,” for the position of Senior Program Manager.
- “The Windows Live Mail team is looking for a seasoned Lead Program Manager to drive our next generation Mail client, and manage five stellar PMs. Our client has over 40M users world-wide, and serves as a key component of our Windows Live “light up Windows” strategy. Our current release is centered on hot new consumer features & better synergies with Hotmail & Windows 7, and our future releases will likely be tightly designed to work best with new Windows 8 platform technologies. We will also work closely with the Outlook team on ways to bring Windows Live to Outlook,” for the position of Principal Lead Program Manager.
- “The TAG team provides the foundation services and infrastructure to support a unified test and dev workflow. This team’s charter includes - developing and running a unified test submission and execution system for Windows 8, Automating Test pass scheduling & execution, results analysis & automated triage, Windows code coverage services, Developing and running the eBVT quality gate, supporting WinSE’s Windows 7 sustained engineering test needs,” for the position of Test Lead 2.
- “The Application Experience Bug Investigation Team, AEBit, is looking for passionate SDETs that want to make an impact on Windows 8. On the AEBit team you will get the unique opportunity to challenge and grow your debugging skills on issues that span the entire OS. You will have the opportunity to engage with software vendors, OEMs, as well as internal component teams. You will also be applying and enhancing your knowledge of system internals. As part of the AEBit team you will be responsible for driving and ensuring compatibility in Windows by engaging with component teams, root causing application bugs, and authoring mitigations,” for the position of Software Development Engineer in Test.