Windows 7 Release Candidate is at most a couple of months away, with April 2009 as deadline, while the RTM could be reached within half a year, as early as August, but Microsoft is looking beyond the next iteration of the Windows platform. That's right, Windows 8 is already cooking over in Redmond, with the software giant having kicked off the development process of Windows 7's successor even last year, in 2008. Of course, Microsoft will only admit to the fact that it is in the planning stages of Windows 8, and with the Windows 7 work in full swing as the operating system moves from Beta to Release Candidate and onward, planning sounds just about right.
“I have been very involved in an effort around some early planning Win 8. It's been largely focused on establishing a customer tour where we basically go on-site to customers and really drill into their broad cross-Windows server future needs. Not specifically looking at just the Win 8 timeframe, but just post-Win 7 and beyond. We've done that with the hope of getting these engagements and voice of the customer throughout the product lifecycle and driving that early on into the planning process for Win 8,” revealed Soni Meinke, a senior program manager in the Windows Server group.
You will be able to see Meinke in the video embedded at the bottom of this article, but she doesn't say anything related to Windows 8 beyond what I have quoted her saying above. At this point in time Microsoft is talking nothing specific about Windows 8, except via its early customer engagement efforts with close partners. And even so, with Win 8 in the planning phase nothing is set in stone, and there will be years before Microsoft will start opening up on the successor of Windows 7.
Future Windows releases will be delivered at a pace of two-to-three years from one another, with the client and server versions joined at the hip. With the first milestone of Windows 7 having been offered to close partners for testing in just a year after the availability of Windows Vista, it's bound that Microsoft will adopt a similar strategy with Windows 7, especially with such early planning. However, one important aspect to keep in mind is that, on the server side, Windows 7 Server (Windows Server 2008 R2) is actually the second release of Windows Server 2008. In this regard, customers will have to wait for Windows 8 in order to get a major new version of Windows Server.
Meinke revealed that her main work is actually in the “customer engineering area, the central group managing customer engagement for product groups, but also drag a lot of those customer engagements ourselves, as in take part in them, plan the strategy around them. The TAP (Technology Adoption Program) is part of this group, the Windows Server Customer Advisory team is also part of this group.”