Following Microsoft's announcement of the release of Windows 7, we find out just what the Windows Vista successor will be like and, more importantly, when it will be available.

Microsoft has announced the launch of Windows 7, which the tech giant is describing as the successor to Windows Vista – the operating system that Gartner analyst Michael Silver described as carrying "a lot of perception issues". But what exactly is Windows 7 and when will it be released?

Well, it depends on who's talking, apparently. Chris Flores, a director with the Windows Client communications team, and Steve Sinofsky, the senior vice president who heads Windows development, have both pegged the release of the Vista follow-on as early 2010.

"We're happy to report that we're still on track to ship approximately three years after the general availability of Windows Vista," said Flores in a blog.

"[We] will continue to say that the next release of Windows, Windows 7, is about three years after the general availability of Windows Vista," Sinofsky told CNet.com.

However, another company executive, the one who heads the organisation chart, in fact, contradicted this. At the D:All Thing Digital conference in the US, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, put Windows 7's ship date as "late 2009".

The spread between early 2010, which would be the "three years after the general availability of Vista", which went into general distribution at the end of January 2007, and late 2009 may not sound significant, but only a few months separated Vista's actual release from an earlier date that would have meant the operating system made it into computers in time for those PCs to sell during the 2006 Christmas season.

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What will Windows 7 be like?

Under the hood, a lot like Vista, according to the tidbits that Microsoft tossed out recently.

Flores was almost expansive on the subject, and noted that Windows 7 would "carry forward" the "long-term architectural investments" made in Vista.

"Windows Vista established a very solid foundation, particularly on subsystems such as graphics, audio and storage. Windows Server 2008 was built on that foundation and Windows 7 will be as well," he said.

In fact, Sinofsky and Flores confirmed other Vista-like aspects of Windows 7, including the fact that the new OS will be released in both 32- and 64-bit versions. There was some speculation earlier that it would be a 64-bit operating system only. Windows 7 will as Flores said, run on the same hardware as recommended for Vista.

NEXT PAGE: More Windows 7 information

  1. What will Windows 7 be like?
  2. More Windows 7 information
  3. Will Windows 7 be a major or a minor release?
  4. Why Windows 7 gets the silent treatment
  5. The curse of great expectations

Following Microsoft's announcement of the release of Windows 7, we find out just what the Windows Vista successor will be like and, more importantly, when it will be available.

Has Microsoft said anything about specific features it plans to ship in Windows 7? A little, but only that. Microsoft has already demonstrated a touchscreen feature that the company said would be integrated into Windows 7. The feature, which incorporates technology Microsoft debuted last year as its Surface project, appears similar to the gesture-based multi-touch tools built into Apple's iPhone and MacBook Air, although on the latter the touch is limited to a larger-than-normal trackpad, not the entire screen.

According to the sessions list for the upcoming Professional Developers Conference, which will take place from October 26 to 30 this year, one session will focus on battery life, presumably batteries in laptops first of all, but also for other mobile devices Microsoft hopes to get Windows 7 into. According to the session description, Windows 7 provides advances for building energy-efficient applications.

"In this session we will discuss how to leverage new Windows infrastructure to reduce application power consumption and efficiently schedule background tasks and services."

Other sessions at the conference will tackle such Windows 7 topics as 'Graphics Advances', 'Touch Computing' and 'Web Services in Native Code', which sounds intriguing, considering Microsoft's push-push-push on its 'Software + Services' concept.

The OS, says Microsoft, will include a new networking API (application programming interface) to support building SOAP-based web services in native code. "This session will discuss the programming model, interoperability aspects with other implementations of WS-* protocols and demonstrate various services and applications built using this API."

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Will Windows 7 sport a new kernel?

No, apparently. Last year, a Microsoft engineer revealed that the company had 200 programmers working on slimming down the Windows kernel for Windows 7; he dubbed it "MinWin" and said it would sport a memory footprint less than one-sixth that of Windows Vista's kernel. However, Flores and Sinofsky both said Windows 7 won't sport a new kernel.

"Contrary to some speculation, Microsoft is not creating a new kernel for Windows 7," Flores said.

Sinofsky put it differently. "The key there is that the kernel in Windows Server 2008 is an evolution of the kernel in Windows Vista, and then Windows 7 will be a further evolution of that kernel as well," he said.

NEXT PAGE: Will Windows 7 be a major or a minor release

  1. What will Windows 7 be like?
  2. More Windows 7 information
  3. Will Windows 7 be a major or a minor release?
  4. Why Windows 7 gets the silent treatment
  5. The curse of great expectations

Following Microsoft's announcement of the release of Windows 7, we find out just what the Windows Vista successor will be like and, more importantly, when it will be available.

Will Windows 7 be a major or a minor release?

The parsing of these adjectives is important because post-Vista, Microsoft said it was planning to update its operating systems on an alternating major-minor basis, with the major upgrades, think XP to Vista, every four years, with minor ones in between.

A good example of a minor upgrade would be Windows XP SP2, which though called a 'Service Pack', was unlike any other SP in the new features and capabilities it added to the previous OS.

Trouble is, Windows 7 sounds like a minor upgrade, but Flores and Sinofsky called it the opposite. "Another question we often get asked is whether Windows 7 is a major release," said Flores. "The answer is 'yes'."

Sinofsky used the adjective 'major' six times during the interview with CNet.com, as in "major undertaking," "major release," and "major and significant release".

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Another clue: Windows 7 will use the same device driver model as Vista. That OS, remember, required new drivers for all hardware, a disruption that even company executives struggled with, as some said in internal emails released earlier this year as part of a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft.

The mixed major or minor message confused at least one analyst. Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft said: "To me, a 'major' update means major changes to the core functionality of the operating system."

With Microsoft saying it was going to build atop Vista, not start from scratch, Cherry said he wasn't getting the impression that core functionality would significantly change.

NEXT PAGE: Why Windows 7 gets the silent treatment

  1. What will Windows 7 be like?
  2. More Windows 7 information
  3. Will Windows 7 be a major or a minor release?
  4. Why Windows 7 gets the silent treatment
  5. The curse of great expectations

Following Microsoft's announcement of the release of Windows 7, we find out just what the Windows Vista successor will be like and, more importantly, when it will be available.

Why is Microsoft playing it so close to the chest on Windows 7?

As we've discussed over the previous pages, Microsoft recently finally broke its silence about the successor to Windows Vista – currently codenamed Windows 7 – but revealed that it will be "more careful" in the way it releases information about its next flagship operating system (OS).

While the company did demonstrate the new multitouch feature of the OS (see boxout on page xx), executives also made it clear that they would not be announcing new components of the platform on a regular basis. In fact, in a posting to its Windows Vista blog, Microsoft executives said they would have little to say about Windows 7 for some time – a change from the past, particularly during the development of Vista.

"With Windows 7, we're trying to more carefully plan how we share information with our customers and partners," said Chris Flores, a director with the Windows Client communications teamin the blog post.

"This means sharing the right level of information at the right time depending on the needs of the audience."

Flores defended the closed-mouthed approach, saying that public disclosures were, not surprisingly, taken at face value by consumers and business users – something that could present problems.

"We know that when we talk about our plans for the next release of Windows, people take action," Flores said.

"As a result, we can significantly impact our partners and our customers if we broadly share information that later changes."

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A pair of analysts agreed with Flores.

"I'd rather know less information than have bad information out there," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

"Talk about Vista got us all excited, and people invested time and money in anticipation of features being there [in the final OS] that weren't there."

"It's much better if it only discusses developments in private or not at all, because it's a bigger deal to users if they think something will be in Windows 7 and then Microsoft misses the deadline for that feature," added Gartner's Michael Silver. "Microsoft talked more publicly about Vista, but that didn't make it a lot of friends."

NEXT PAGE: the curse of great expectations

  1. What will Windows 7 be like?
  2. More Windows 7 information
  3. Will Windows 7 be a major or a minor release?
  4. Why Windows 7 gets the silent treatment
  5. The curse of great expectations

Following Microsoft's announcement of the release of Windows 7, we find out just what the Windows Vista successor will be like and, more importantly, when it will be available.

Why doesn't MS want to build up our expectations

Microsoft was roundly criticised during the long run up toward Vista's release for announcing several features – among them a new storage subsystem, dubbed WinFS, that was dumped in 2004.

Neither Cherry nor Silver, however, see the tighter control on Windows development news as a major problem, at least with those who need to know.

"The key thing here is to think about the lead times that people need," said Cherry, talking about hardware partners, tools and application developers, and corporate customers, in that order.

"Who are the parties who need to know, what do they need to know, and when?"

Silver said that it was important for Microsoft to keep Windows 7 talk to a minimum to prevent users from cancelling plans to upgrade to Vista. Too much discussion about the next version of Windows – which is due in 2009 or 2010 – is already convincing customers to sit tight with Windows XP and skip Vista entirely.

"That's not good for Microsoft," he said.

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Of the 674 Windows die-hards who answered PC Advisor's online poll in May, asking which version of the OS they'd want installed on their next PC or laptop, just 27 percent chose Windows Vista, while 40 percent went for Windows 7. The remaining 33 percent picked Windows XP.

"Part of the problem is that people haven't believed what Microsoft's scheduled," said Cherry. "Whether the development is happening publicly or privately, it doesn't matter if you don't get the schedule right."

Will the new tactic of keeping the lid on work? Cherry isn't sure.

"The question is, does an approach that works with Microsoft Office, which has a much smaller developer base, work with something as large as a general-purpose OS?" Cherry asked.

Steven Sinofsky, the Microsoft senior vice president who heads Windows development, had headed Office development previously, and was well-known for running a team that didn't disclose many details about its current work. "I don't know the answer, but we'll find out with Windows 7, won't we?" Cherry said.

  1. What will Windows 7 be like?
  2. More Windows 7 information
  3. Will Windows 7 be a major or a minor release?
  4. Why Windows 7 gets the silent treatment
  5. The curse of great expectations