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Microsoft aims to show Windows 7 'readiness'

Even though it's not willing to say when the operating system will ship, Microsoft is nonetheless trying to show partners that the time for them to get ready is now.

After getting dinged for constantly changing plans with Windows Vista, Microsoft is taking the opposite approach with Windows 7.

The software maker is being extremely conservative with what it says publicly about the operating system--a move it says is deliberate.

Windows 7 multitouch
Click photo for slideshow on Windows 7 multitouch.

"The lack of a predictable schedule combined with the churn of features late in the the process made it hard for partners to know is this the real Windows Vista," said Mike Nash, Microsoft's vice president for Windows product management. "The result of our lack of predictability was everybody (saying) 'Let's wait for this thing to stop spinning.'"

With Windows 7, Microsoft has tried to share details only as they became relatively certain. The hope is that even though Microsoft isn't talking as early about its plans, it is talking with more certainty when it does speak.

That move has led to far fewer changes in plans--but also means that Microsoft is still hedging on key questions--in particular, when Windows 7 will ship.

Microsoft has said only that it will ship within three years of the mainstream launch of Windows Vista--essentially by January 2010. However, the company is widely seen as trying to get Windows 7 on machines in time for this year's holiday season.

Without being any more specific on dates, Microsoft is trying to get its partners to make sure their software and hardware is ready for the new operating system. Although Windows 7 doesn't introduce the kinds of major changes that Vista represented versus Windows XP, the company does need hardware and software makers to double check that their Vista-compatible stuff also works with Windows 7.

On Monday, Microsoft is announcing the Windows 7 Readiness program, an effort to formalize that process. In an interview, Nash said the company hopes that by speaking about the product only as details have been nailed down, the company will restore credibility with its partners.

Now playing: Watch this: Talking Windows 7

Those who take part in the readiness program will have access to additional documentation and test builds from Microsoft. The goal, Nash said, is not just to increase adoption for Windows 7-specific features such as Device Stage and multitouch, but also to convince developers to start building on some of the features that have been in place since Vista.

"Some features in Windows Vista...have not gotten the adoption we would like to see," Nash said, pointing in particular to the Windows Presentation Foundation graphics layer that was built into Vista, but has yet to be widely adopted as part of Windows applications.