Partners Get First Look at Windows 7

The operating system successor to Windows Vista received its first public unveiling at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles.

Ray Ozzie, chief software architect for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), said Windows 7 marks a part of the company's overall effort to better deliver what he described as one complete offering.

"If you take one thing away from what you see here today at PDC, it is that we can do our customers a great service by focusing how much we can give them for a combined value of their investments," Ozzie said. "Our objective to make the combination of PC, phone and the Web of more value than the sum of their parts."

Julie Larson-Green, vice president of Windows Experience, gave Windows 7's first public demonstration, focusing heavily on its touchscreen elements, such as how older applications can be touch-enabled without rewriting them.

Larson-Green also demonstrated Windows 7 support for connecting to a multitude of devices, including a Windows Mobile phone. Though a service called Device Stage, all devices on a network -- including desktop PCs, laptops, printers, attached storage and Windows Mobile phones -- can be viewed and accessed as readily as a hard disk partition on the computer.

In addition to new touch functionality and Device Stage, Larson-Green also demonstrated another nifty user-interface element that combines Quick Launch buttons and Taskbar icons. Moving the mouse over a Word icon shows thumbnails with all of the application's open documents, making it possible to jump to an open Word file with a single click.

Yet another change: The sidebar from Windows Vista that occupied the right side of the screen is gone. Under Windows 7, it's possible to place widgets anywhere on the desktop.

While this drew some polite applause, it was when Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of Windows and Windows Live, got around to dealing with the issues that had plagued Vista that the audience become more enthusiastic. 

It was the admission of problems in Vista, and what they were doing to fix them, that worked up the crowd. "We got feedback on Vista from bloggers, the press, oh, and some commercials," Sinofsky said, to laughter.

For starters, he addressed the annoying User Access Control (UAC) security system, which asked people if they really wanted to perform a certain action even for the most basic of functions. In adding UAC to Vista, Sinofsky said Microsoft had meant well, but "we possibly went too far."

In Windows 7, users can specify the intrusiveness of notifications and confirmations Windows uses to alert the user to system changes. They can now control how much notification they desire using a slide bar, which enables them to choose from "Never notify me," "Only notify me when programs try to make changes," "Always notify" and "Notify and wait for my approval." UAC had offered only an all-or-nothing choice

Sinofsky also addressed Vista's problems with drivers, many of which were not available until some time after the operating system had shipped. Because Windows 7 uses the same device driver model as Vista, which now has been on the market nearly two years, he did not see there being a similar snag when Windows 7 hits the market. Now, he said, the third-party market is fully involved in writing compatible drivers. "With Vista, we really weren't ready at launch with the device coverage we need," he said.

Another change that drew audience applause is being able to natively create and mount a virtual hard drive in Windows 7, a feature demonstrated on-stage. These drives can be either dynamic or fixed in size.

Sinofsky also teased a much smaller footprint for Windows 7.

He showed off a netbook with 1GB of memory and said that after it booted Windows, the tiny, low-powered notebook PC still had more than half of its memory left over.

Concerns over memory had proved to be another thorn in the side of Vista, with the older Windows XP finding new life not only among customers who didn't want Vista, but also as the OS of choice for less-powerful computers like netbooks.

Sinofsky said Microsoft would release a broadly available public beta of Windows 7 early next year, which would be available for download from MSDN.

Beyond that beta, Sinofsky stuck to the company's stated release schedule, stating that Microsoft plans to make it available three years from the general availability of Vista. which would make it early 2010. InternetNews.com has learned that Microsoft has a much shorter time frame in mind and is aiming for a June 2009 release.

At the event, Microsoft gave out copies of Windows 7 Ultimate in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, plus Windows Server 2008 R2, which is also in beta.

In addition to showing off Windows 7, Microsoft on Tuesday also demonstrated .NET Framework 4.0, with new features for developers that include parallel programming support. The company also took the wraps off Office Web apps, lightweight versions of its main Office applications that will run in any Web browser.

(This article was adapted from Internetnews.com.)

TAGS: Windows,Microsoft,developers,Vista

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