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Eight Windows 7 features Microsoft should announce this week

Windows 7 speculation starts in earnest this week, with Microsoft planning to give attendees at the Professional Developers Conference an in-depth preview of the operating system. Over the next few days, we can expect further details of a number of the rumoured features of Vista's successor, as well as many we've not heard of before.

But before Microsoft sets the ball rolling, here's the top eight Windows 7 features I'd like to be announced.

Speed: Microsoft always promises that its next desktop operating system will be faster, but how about committing to making the OS much quicker at booting up. Various rumours have suggested Windows 7 will get an Instant-On feature. That might be an unreasonable demand, and in practice it's debatable how 'instant' such a feature could be, but it's time Windows finally addressed slow startup times.

Compatibility: An obvious request for anyone who bought Vista (and various versions of Windows before it), but how long can Microsoft release OSes that don't work with a significant amount of third-party hardware/software at launch? The company must convince partners to get drivers sorted early on.

Price: The high price of Windows is always a major concern for consumers when a new version launches. While it's unlikely Microsoft will address retail prices when it talks about Windows 7 this week, can the company continue to position the OS as a premium product? Apple does this with Mac OS X, and it's dedicated users appear to be happy to pay the price. But Windows should be the OS for the mass market, and therefore should be the cheaper option - particularly if Microsoft expects people to upgrade their current machines.

Versions: The number of versions of Windows increases with every release. You can understand the need for business versions, and perhaps a Windows 7 Basic for netbooks. But Windows Vista Ultimate has been a pointless product with a price premium. Don't make the same mistake with Windows 7, unless there really are some 'ultimate' features.

Release date: Microsoft has pledged to release new versions of Windows on a three-year cycle. Let's hope the company can stick to that. It took five years to release Vista - those sticking with XP to avoid Microsoft's latest OS would be in uproar if they have to wait until 2012 for Vista's replacement.

Less intrusive UAC: Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of development for Microsoft's Windows Core Operating System Division, said on the Engineering Windows 7 blog earlier this month that UAC is one of the "most controversial" Vista features, and that Microsoft plans to make prompts displayed by the tool "more informative" in future. Hopefully we'll find out more about these plans this week.

Substance over style: Does anyone really benefit from Vista's 'snazzy' Aero interface? Microsoft should focus more on the way Windows works, rather than the way it looks.

Forget the Hype: Microsoft disappointed many Windows users by promising the world with Vista, but many of the features we expected to be included were withdrawn from the final release. Let's hope everything that's discussed this week actually makes it into Windows 7.

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