We all remember what a compatibility nightmare Microsoft Windows Vista was between the time that it launched in January 2007 and the release of SP1 in April 2008. Unfortunately, software and hardware manufacturers and Microsoft were not on the same page when Vista launched, and it took them close to a year to get to that point.
This fact is clearly spelled out in this excerpt from the "Application and Device Compatibility" section of the Overview of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 document, which emphasizes a dramatic increase in the number of compatible products:
In the past year, the ecosystem has made dramatic progress in addressing Windows Vista compatibility issues. More than 2,500 applications and 15,000 components and devices have earned either the "Works with Windows Vista" or "Certified for Windows Vista" logos. As of December 2007, 93% of the 200 top-selling applications and 46 of the top 50 downloaded applications on Download.com are Windows Vista compatible.... A year ago, when Windows Vista launched, there were 13,000 additional components and devices supported by Windows Update; now, there is support for more than 54,000 components and devices.
As you can imagine, the folks at Microsoft are very determined not to repeat that bit of history with Windows 7.
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In addition to improving the overall performance of the new operating system, Microsoft has put a great deal of effort into making sure that Windows 7 is extremely compatible with new and existing hardware and software. To boost this effort, Microsoft has focused a lot of effort into fine-tuning the advances made with Vista such that all the work done by developers on Vista compatibility will transfer directly to Windows 7 and will allow them to build on those efforts as they work toward Windows 7 compatibility.
In fact, in February of this year Microsoft announced the Windows Ecosystem Readiness Program, which is designed to help Independent Hardware Vendors (IHVs), Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), developers, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), and Original Device Manufacturers (ODMs) work toward compatibility with Windows 7 by providing them with access to all kinds of resources and by providing more direct contact with Microsoft, including access to application testing labs through Microsoft Connect.
You can read more about the Windows Ecosystem Readiness Program along with an interview with Mike Nash, who is the Corporate Vice President of Windows Product Management, in an article on the Microsoft PressPass site.
Now, it's important to note that even before its official inception, the Windows Ecosystem Readiness Program was already at work and making great strides in preparing the way for Windows 7 to be one of the most compatible-ready operating systems to date. In fact, at the October 2008 Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft partners received an API complete developer build of Windows 7 so that they could begin working directly with the new operating system a full year before the proposed release date.
Three months later, developers got access to one of the most stable Beta releases in recent history and were able to step up their development strategies. Five months after that milestone, developers received the Release Candidate and as such have had a good five and half months to fine-tune their product development while working with a very stable, feature-complete version of the Windows 7 operating system.
More significant is the fact that in a recent Windows 7 Team Blog, Mark Relph, the Senior Director with the Windows Ecosystem Team, reported on the success of the Windows Ecosystem Readiness Program by pointing out that over 50,000 developers from 17,000 companies are taking part in the program. He also highlighted the fact that more than 6,000 hardware and software products have received the Compatible with Windows 7 Logo. As you can see, comparing these numbers to those mentioned in the SP1 document reveals a dramatic increase in developer participation.
In addition, Ralph pointed out that while many other companies are not participating in the Logo program, their products will just work, because of the compatibility efforts built in to the operating system itself.
Mark also talked about Microsoft's Ready. Set. 7. Web site where you can find a list of companies and detailed descriptions of the products that have received the Compatible with Windows 7 Logo. In addition to the Ready. Set. 7. Web site, you will be able to find more detailed information about compatible products on the Windows 7 Compatibility Center Web site, which will be officially open for business when Windows 7 debuts on October 22.
Windows XP Mode RTM
While working to make as many products as possible compatible with Windows 7 is Microsoft's main goal, it is important to point out that in a roundabout way, Windows XP Mode is also very much about compatibility. While I wrote about Windows XP Mode when it was in Beta, development and significant improvements have been underway, and the Windows XP Mode add-on has been released to manufacturing and will be ready for download on October 22. You can learn more about Windows XP Mode improvements in a recent Windows 7 Team Blog by Brandon LeBlanc.
What's your take?
As you can probably tell, I'm very excited about Windows 7 and the compatibility efforts that Microsoft has put into the development of the new operating system. What's your take? Are you ready to give Microsoft a second chance when it comes to compatibility? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.
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Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.