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Better, Faster, Cheaper--Say What?

It’s a truism in engineering that no matter what customers request, when it comes to revising existing products given goals to make things better, faster, and cheaper, it’s necessary to pick at most two of those characteristics to guide future development work. Thus, if you want a product or system to be better and faster, you must accept that it will also be more expensive. Likewise, if you want it to be better and cheaper, you must accept that it will be slower. And finally, if you want it to be faster and cheaper, quality has to give to make this possible. Or at least, that’s how the conventional wisdom is supposed to go…

Well, it looks like Microsoft is going for the hat trick with Windows 7. In my work with the Windows 7 betas and the Release Candidate, I’m satisfied that published reports that Windows 7 is faster and less resource hungry than Windows Vista are true. So that’s faster taken care of. I’m also convinced that Windows 7 is more robust, reliable, and easier to troubleshoot and repair that Windows Vista ever was, also based on my own experience. That’s why I also go along with the notion that Windows 7 is better than Windows Vista, according to a whole slew of metrics from code size, to stability, to reliability, to overall functionality, and more.

According to a June 26 story by Sharon Pian Chan in the Seattle Times entitled “Windows 7 to be cheaper than Vista,” it looks like there’s a reasonable basis to believe it’s going to cost less than Vista, too. I’ve already reported on the special pricing available for Windows 7 Home Premium ($49.99) and Windows 7 Professional ($99.99) available for pre-order now through July 11 (a week from Saturday as I write this on 7/2/09) at select e-tailers, retailers, and the MS Online Store. The Seattle Times reports that retail prices for boxed versions of Windows 7 are also at least 10% cheaper than applicable Windows Vista counterparts. My own inspection, based on the June 25 Windows 7 Team Blog is that only Windows 7 Home Premium prices have decreased (by $10) vis-a-vis comparable Visa products.

Even so, I do think we have to give MS some credit here, even if an across-the-board price cut appears to be questionable. Why do I say this? Two reasons: worst case, MS held the line on prices, and you could argue that a 2.5 year time span with no increase reflects no cost adjustment for interim increases in inflation (modest),  and costs of doing business (also modest). Then, too, there’s always the notion that street prices are less than official vendor (MSRP) prices. These numbers set the ceiling for what people will pay; smart shoppers will usually save at least 10-20% off these published prices buying from price leader online vendors. Enterprises and OEMs will also pay less, when the time comes to negotiate volume contracts for thousands of licenses, or even greater quantities.

[Afternoon update 7/2/2009: Ed Bott just published a ZDNet blog entitled “Microsoft to Offer Family Pack for Windows 7 Home Premium” that does indicate some new and possibly substantial discounts are coming into play for Windows 7. This could be very cool (I just wish it worked the same as for the Vista Family Discount that he also describes in that blog).]

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