With Windows Vista out the door and its first service pack on the way, Microsoft has begun to focus on the road map for the future of its flagship operating system. The details are still extremely skimpy, but the company is beginning to discuss Windows 7, which is Microsoft’s internal code name for the next version of the Windows client, with select customers and partners.
Since Vista’s release, Microsoft has been saying that the next version of Windows would appear significantly quicker than Vista did after XP’s release. To that end, Microsoft is still on track. “Microsoft is scoping Windows 7 development to a three-year time frame, and then the specific release date will ultimately be determined by meeting the quality bar,” the company said in a statement. However, earlier statements by Microsoft execs had put Windows 7 on track for release in 2009, while doing the math on the latest statement puts Windows 7 more in the 2010 time frame.

The company has begun discussing plans for Windows 7 and other future Windows-related products with select enterprise customers and partners. The conversations first came to light after reports that Microsoft had discussed the next version of Windows at its annual sales conference, Microsoft Global Exchange, last week, a fact which Microsoft confirmed in an e-mail today.

According to Microsoft, customers of the company’s Software Assurance plan, which provides buyers with upgrades and other enterprise services, are being specifically targeted with early information on Windows 7. As part of those discussions, Microsoft also is outlining the future of releases such as the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, which includes software tools like SoftGrid for desktop virtualization and Winternals’ recovery software.

By J. Nicholas Hoover