Microsoft Not Discussing Windows 7, Office 14

Now that Vista and Office 2007 are officially out the door, Windows enthusiasts have been busy scrounging up what they can about the next versions of both products. Not much has turned up besides code-names and potential features, but a number of blog posts prompted Microsoft to say publicly that it's not saying anything.

The commotion largely began at the RSA Security conference last week, where Windows Core Operating System Division Corporate Vice President Ben Fathi told an audience that the next major release of Windows is about two to two-and-a-half years out, indicating a 2009 timeframe.

Reports also surfaced that Microsoft was already calling the next-generation release "Windows 7," dropping the code-name "Vienna" it had used previously. Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, who first broke the news, proposed the reason was likely because the update will follow NT 6.0, the code-name used to refer to the core that powers Windows XP and Vista.

Microsoft attempted to quash the rumors late Tuesday, issuing a terse press release "in response to recent speculation."

"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. We are not giving official guidance to the public yet about the next version of Windows, other than that we’re working on it," said Windows Client Director Kevin Kutz.

"When we are ready, we will provide updates."

But the response seemingly did more to provoke than appease. "People, like myself, have been dissecting Vista for a very long time. To us, Vista is old news, and we've talked it to death. It needs millions of people using it to judge it's full effect on the market, which will take time. What are we supposed to do in the meantime?" asked Microsoft MVP Robert McLaws.

"So Microsoft, 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," McLaws added.

"Customers want and need to know roughly what's coming when in order to plan their corporate and consumer PC purchases," said Foley. "There's a big difference between 2009 (the supposed current target for Windows 7) and 2011 (the possible target given Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' two-to-four year time window for the next version of Windows)."

The next release of Office has heated up the rumor mill as well. Slides from a presentation on Office System given in Denmark leaked to the site AeroXperience, leaking out a couple of interesting tidbits that bloggers jumped on.

First, Microsoft is skipping over the Office 13 code-name due to its unlucky connotation and moving forward with "Office 14." Second, Office 14 is targeted to the first half of 2009, 26 to 36 months after the release of Office 2007, the slides indicated.

But Microsoft says the presentation was simply designed to start a discussion on the next release of Office, and everything was still up in the air. "It's common for Microsoft to be planning and having conversations around the next version of Office, and while it is typical for the Office team to deliver a new version every 2 to 3 years there is nothing to disclose at this time," the company said in a statement.

While it's clear that it's too early to speculate on next-generation products, Foley says Microsoft is simply going to create more confusion by saying one thing in private and another in public.

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