Microsoft demos Windows 7 to developers

LOS ANGELES—Microsoft Corp. demoed its new operating system, Windows 7, for the first time Tuesday during a keynote address at its Professional Developers Conference.

How the somewhat-new Windows Vista and the much-beloved Windows XP fit into the upcoming Windows 7 ecosystem was a key point coming from Windows and Windows Live senior vice-president Steven Sinofsky. “The newest platform always delivers our best innovations possible,” Sinofsky said, acknowledging that support for older platforms will be maintained.

Shane Schick’s ComputerWorld

What I would have named Windows 7

There was many a rueful chuckle in the PDC audience about reaction to Windows Vista. Sinofsky said, “After we launched Vista, we got feedback from the press…a blogger here and there…oh, and there were some commercials.”

Much of the keynote kept pushing Windows Vista, too, with execs pointing out how kinks in the OS have been worked out both within the current version and in the new OS. For example, the backlash against the dearth of Windows Vista drivers has been rectified on Windows 7, according to Sinofsky.

“If you look at all the major release in the past, there’s always ecosystem issues to start with, but those initial hiccups are always solved in a shorter and shorter period of time, so there shouldn’t be as many issues to start with Windows 7,” said IDC Canada analyst Kevin Restivo. “It has a clear development path now, and Microsoft is especially vigilant about delivering on its promises,”

The Windows 7 beta will be available early next year. In terms of a general release date, however, Sinofsky said that Microsoft is sticking to its desire to release Windows 7 three years after the general availability of Windows Vista.

The Windows 7 demo was synched to Windows Server 2008 R2.

The 1,000-strong developer team has worked to reduce the core deployment footprint via reductions in the disk I/O and memory use from the reference set and graphics. Windows 7 will also benefit from increased boot-time and faster availability.

Support staff get a bone, too, said Shanen Boettcher, general manager of Windows product management for the enterprise, during the earlier reviewers workshop. The operating system will allow users to take screen shot videos of problems they may be having with their machines. These files can then be easily submitted to IT staffers, who can more easily diagnose the problem. A detailed log can also be generated around system problems, he said, which can then be sent to the IT department to track operating system issues.

“To have this built in to the system is very, very convenient,” said Ezra Silverton, owner of Toronto-based Web marketing and Web development company 9th Sphere. “Most users, you have to go visit with them, and then you ask them, “So, you have a browser issue?’ and they say, ‘What’s a browser?’”

The new taskbar allows users to roll over applications and bring up large panes showing individual tabs and windows, along with an automatic most-recently-used documents roll-over feature.

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Professional-oriented Windows 7 features

Other enterprise productivity bonuses include windows that will automatically re-size so that users can compare pages against each other, more easily searchable libraries, and touch capabilities for touch-enabled computers.

Microsoft also finally took Office online with the new Office Live, which allows users to work in office applications like Word and Excel online. This could especially be a boon to small business, said Silverton. “Office Live could really help them save costs, but, at the same time, be able to compete with the big boys, because now they have all the tools to allow them to focus on their core competencies, but without the infrastructure costs,” he said. “This is what Google has initiated, and forced Microsoft into the position they were in now. I think if Google hadn’t done it, they wouldn’t have done what they did.”

Another big hit for the assembled masses was the ability to more easily connect to devices like projectors, as well as multi-monitor support for connecting to double screens, including in Remote Desktop and the Dev Machine (the latter of which drew ecstatic whoops and thunderous applause).

Devices have spread like mad since the last Professional Developers Conference, and features in Windows 7 have been updated accordingly. The system can recognize when the user goes from home to office, and will connect to correct printers, devices, documents, and music, depending on the environment, complete with the appropriate identity and access controls.

Other demos included the photo synching, sharing, arranging capabilities of Windows Live, and how to synch applications on different devices via the new Live Framework and Live Mesh.

Sinofsky’s call to action for developers to help push Windows 7 out into the world was to develop for 64-bit, code to the Web standards in Internet Explorer 8, and work with the Windows Live beta. And don’t forget to focus on the fundamentals in Windows 7, such as timers, hangs, crashes, and overall footprint, he said: “These are all the things we know affect people around the world.”

Microsoft’s PDC continues on Wednesday.

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