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Mixed reaction on keeping Vista kernel for Windows 7

Microsoft's decision to use a refined Vista kernel for its next OS, Windows 7, is a smart business move. But does it help IT managers?

Microsoft clarified a few things about its next operating system code-named Windows 7 on its Vista blog.

For one, it is not developing a new kernel for Windows 7, but instead will refine the Vista kernel for use in the new operating system

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due out sometime in 2010. There have been reports that Microsoft was developing a new kernel.

IT managers can expect less hardware and software incompatibilities as a result if they make the move from Vista to Windows 7, which is unlike the problems many IT shops are having when migrating from XP to Vista.

The OS team is "well into the development process" of Windows 7. It will run on the same hardware specs designed for Vista and support software that now runs on Vista, according to the blog.

By keeping the kernel the same, Vista is getting a reprieve, said Jonathan Eunice, principal at Illuminata Inc., the Nashua, N.H., consulting firm. He said Microsoft's decision would be akin to a second release candidate for Vista.

"There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the [Vista] kernel, but it's a way for [Microsoft] to move away from the branding issues and bad rap Vista has and repackage it," Eunice said. "Windows 7 would give Microsoft more time to tune performance issues with Vista … call it Vista Plus 1."

And starting from scratch would lead to the same incompatibility problems Microsoft is currently having with Vista. "[Using the same kernel] is an appropriate move because if you look at XP it was really a culmination of four tuning cycles going back to the mid-'90s with Windows NT version 3 or 3.5," he said.

An operating system migration is not a pleasant move for IT shops, and to hear that a new one is under development with little changes to the kernel makes some wonder why a move to Windows 7 would then be necessary.

Kroll Factual Data plans to complete its Vista migration by the end of this year. The Loveland, Colo., subsidiary of risk consultancy Kroll, speeded up its deployment of Vista because many of its users are buying laptops and desktops with the new OS.

"We're just doing it now. Bringing a new OS into the mix isn't exactly a great bit of news for me," said Christopher Steffen, principal technical architect with Kroll Factual Data. "If there are no substantial changes to the [Windows 7] OS, like security and functionality improvements and not just cosmetic changes, I don't see us having a rapid deployment for it."

As an early adopter, Steffen does expect his company to migrate to Windows 7 to some degree, but not on the same scale as its Vista migration.

He said he does believe, however, that introducing OSes closer together would be a way for Microsoft to avoid the kind of market saturation and resistance to change that they are experiencing with XP. Five years passed between the release of XP and Vista, versus a three-year gap if Windows 7 does come out in 2010.

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