Microsoft: Pay no attention to post-Vista plans

What comes next? 'We're working on it,' says exec

Microsoft on Friday declined to comment on post-Vista plans by releasing a comment -- a move bloggers attributed to buzz about a list of most-asked-for features to Vista's successor. The list was yanked from a Microsoft forum earlier last week.

The company's statement, attributed to Kevin Kutz, director of the Windows client team, was among the shortest on record from the company.

"The launch of Windows Vista was an incredibly exciting moment for our customers and partners around the world, and the company is focused on the value Windows Vista will bring to people today," Kutz said. "We are not giving official guidance to the public yet about the next version of Windows, other than that we're working on it. When we are ready, we will provide updates."

Bloggers dedicated to tracking every Microsoft twitch said the comment on not commenting was prompted by speculation about user-requested features for the next edition of Windows. That list had been solicited from an invite-only group of Windows beta testers in a program dubbed "Early Feedback Program" that started in December 2006. It included such requests as integrated antivirus scanning, plain-English error messages and several improvements to Internet Explorer that are fixtures in rival Firefox, such as session restore.

On Tuesday, Windows beta tester Jamie Grant posted a list of the feature requests -- which blogger Long Zheng characterized as a bit like Dell Inc.'s user-generated, user-ranked IdeaStorm -- on Microsoft's own enthusiast Channel9 site. The thread, however, was quickly locked by Channel9 administrators; Grant later deleted the post and list.

But by then Channel9 users had seen the 70-some items, and bloggers such as ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley began spreading the word. Some, like Zheng, didn't take the censorship well. "One would think, or at the least I would think a list of product suggestions thought of by the people, written by the people, moderated by the people and ranked by the people is a product of the people [emphasis in original]," said Zheng in an entry to his "istartedsomething" blog. "Under some unexplainable spell, some Microsoft employees insist this become company secrets, thus, protected by non-disclosure. I beg them to reevaluate what's at stake."

Even Robert McLaws, a blogger who is usually supportive of Microsoft, took the company to task, albeit gently. After translating the Microsoft statement as -- "Hey, we just spent 5 years working on this thing, we don't know what we're doing next. Why don't you guys go spend some time talking about that while we go figure it out, mmmk?" McLaws advised Microsoft that "instead of getting annoyed because we need something to do, you guys need to chalk it up as an unwanted side effect of taking 5 years to get your last product out the door."

Microsoft's statement isn't a change from its official position, which has all along been to emphasize Windows Vista and downplay any future releases. For a time, that mum's-the-word approach went so far as to hedge whether a Service Pack would be created for Vista. Although executives soon relented, and at least acknowledged a Vista SP1 would be forthcoming, they continue to push Vista.

This week, in fact, as rumors spread that the beta of SP1 might pop up as early as Monday, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner urged partners to focus on Vista and other 2007 products. "I see one thing in FY [fiscal year] '08; I see money," said Turner. "I see monetization. I can smell it and hear it, see it, OK, because this is the year that we're going to monetize that innovation."

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Gregg Keizer

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