Via the SitePoint Industry News forum, Microsoft are planning on following Apple’s lead on backwards compatibility with the next version of their Windows operating system, referred to as Windows 7, to be launched as early as next year.
According to Dev Corvin:
Windows 7 takes a different approach to the componentization and backwards compatibility issues; in short, it doesn’t think about them at all. Windows 7 will be a from-the-ground-up packaging of the Windows codebase; partially source, but not binary compatible with previous versions of Windows.
Corvin suggests that this approach will allow for performance improvements to be made to Windows by not having to support monolithic libraries for backwards compatibility. Applications compiled for Vista and XP would run in a virtual machine, in a similar way that Apple’s Mac OS X runs Classic apps — an approach that was risky at the time but has paid off for Apple given OS X’s success.
If true, this is a marked departure from Microsoft’s traditional policy on backwards compatibility. In everything from the desktop to the web, the standard Redmond philosophy has been backwards compatibility at all cost. When Microsoft succumbed to the web development community last month to make IE8 standards-compliant by default, the reason given was that it was “best for the Web”. Now, it seems that Microsoft are realizing that a more forward-looking approach on the desktop might actually be beneficial for their bottom line — and for the regulators.
This also allows Microsoft to neatly sidestep the DoJ and EU anti-trust rulings … While the anti-Microsoft naysayers out there will claim that this is unethical business practice, however, technical users will appreciate that this is an excellent way of providing new features while maintaining backwards compatibility with legacy applications.
Bill Gates recently let slip that Windows 7 could be available as early as next year.
Matthew Magain is a UX designer with over 15 years of experience creating exceptional digital experiences for companies such as IBM, Australia Post, and sitepoint.com. He is the co-founder of UX Mastery, and recently co-authored Everyday UX, an inspiring collection of interviews with some of the best UX Designers in the world.