By contrast, "compatibility is a short hurdle for Windows 7 because developers have already put the time into getting their apps to run on Vista and the OSes have a similar basic technology," said Janel Garvin, CEO of developer market research firm Evans Data Corp.
Positive reviews and pent-up demand for Windows 7 is also making it easier.
"With Vista, they failed miserably to get developers to write for the new OS, and it has never gained a lot of support in the software development world," she said. "Windows 7, on the other hand is an OS that developers are VERY excited about."
According to Evans' surveys, almost 30 percent of developers expect Windows 7 to be their primary target next year, which Garvin said is more than any other OS, including XP.
For individuals whose apps do malfunction on Windows 7, there are multiple potential solutions:
- Run the 'troubleshoot application compatibility' feature in Windows 7. It will detect what OS environment the app runs best in, and then simulates it under Windows 7.
- Use Windows 7's built-in virtualization for Windows XP, called XP Mode.
- Or run a third-party virtualization app such as VMware Inc.'s free VMware Player or the for-fee VMware Workstation.
Companies facing compatibility problems with apps on Windows 7 have a trio of Microsoft-produced solutions:
- The aforementioned XP Mode;
- For large enterprise customers of Microsoft, MED-V virtualization;
- For custom-written apps, 'shimming' them using Microsoft's tools;
What Cherry wants, but has not yet seen, are vendors who are actually optimizing their wares for Windows 7's capabilities.
"Besides not puking and falling over, how about making your app actually exploit something in Windows 7?" he said, citing features such as Jump Lists, the Ribbon interface, or the 64-bit components that are now mainstream on new PCs.
Cherry isn't hopeful that this will emerge, pointing to Microsoft's own upcoming Office 2010. It will run on 32-bit and 64-bit, and be backwards compatible with XP -- making it impossible to optimize for Windows 7, he said.
"And if Microsoft is not willing to do that, who else is going to do it?" he said.