As Microsoft prepares Windows 7 for its release later this month, it's important to realize that there really isn't a guarantee that it will offer any more value than earlier versions. Recent reports have said that it's a superior operating system to its predecessors - Windows XP and Windows Vista - but in the software space, that doesn't mean that it will necessarily be true. There are several factors at play.
One of the most prominent factors is security. Long the thorn in Microsoft's side, security could make or break Windows 7. If it's more secure than earlier versions of the software, Windows 7 could be a winner. If not, it could be a loser.
Arguably, security matters most to Windows 7's success, and to how consumers and IT administrators view the new OS. Here's why:
1. The enterprise relies on security
There's nothing worse for an enterprise than deploying an operating system that fails to offer the kind of security it expects. Nowhere is that more evident than in Windows Vista, which turned many companies away prior to the release of Service Pack 1. Windows 7 cannot afford to be insecure. The key customers Microsoft relies on for big profits-corporations-won't like it.
2. Consumers won't like it either
Microsoft also needs to worry about consumers. Those that learn that Windows 7 is insecure or vulnerable to viruses and malware will find alternatives for fear of losing their data. Granted, the state of cyber-security in the consumer space is poor. But I'm a firm believer that more people than ever are at least aware of security concerns and the latest attacks. If they find out that an operating system is insecure, they won't be happy.
3. What about market share?
If Windows 7 is insecure, you can expect Microsoft's dominance in the operating-system market to slip. Those that were intent on buying Windows 7 prior to its release will learn of its troubles and opt for a different operating system. That could mean Linux or, most likely, Apple will reap the reward.
4. Microsoft's loss of power
If Windows 7 suffers from insecurity, much of the power Microsoft wields in the computing industry will be eliminated. When Windows XP was at its height, companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard were forced to "play ball" with Microsoft. If Microsoft required something of those companies, they did it.