It seems that Microsoft is now confident enough to offer a sneak peek at the new Windows features at its upcoming developer and hardware conferences in October and November. It even set up an official Windows 7 blog on which senior engineers promise to discuss the operating system with users. It is a different approach than what the company took with Vista and appears that the wave of Vista criticism has had an impact.
Microsoft said that it will publicly reveal details and "in-depth technical information" about Windows 7 to developers attending its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) set to take place from October 26-29 and at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) scheduled for November 5-7.
Writing on the new Windows 7 blog, Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan, senior engineering team leaders, pledged to document the pace of development and offer a peak at Windows 7 features in the works from time to time. "With this blog we’re opening up a two-way discussion about how we are making Windows 7," the company wrote. "We strongly believe that success for Windows 7 includes an open and honest, and two-way, discussion about how we balance all of these interests and deliver software on the scale of Windows. We promise and will deliver such a dialog with this blog."
It is quite apparent that Microsoft will be gauging early interest for the yet-to-be-revealed Windows 7 features and establish a measure to control or at least balance the news flow about Windows 7. Actual information coming out of this blog may actually be not as comprehensive as Windows might expect, as the authors said they will "not set expectations around the release that end up disappointing," like "features that don’t make it, claims that don’t stick, or support we don’t provide."
So far, Microsoft kept a low profile on Windows 7 features. In terms of the base technology, we know that its kernel will be based on Windows Server 2008 kernel, which is an evolution of the Windows Vista kernel. It will keep the current driver model and will not be able to tap GPU for general-purpose computing. In short, Microsoft decided to play it safe and keep the Windows foundation in place. The new operating system comes in times when Microsoft is facing increasing competition on its own soil, especially by Apple whose OS X now leapfrogs Windows in terms of features and innovation. We can already hear Apple and pessimists saying that Windows 7 will be little more than a giant Windows Vista patch that uses multi-touch support as a sales pitch.
In fact, the only end-user feature that was promoted to this point was a multi-touch interface that will support multi-finger gestures in Windows, similar to the iPhone. Multi-touch will not be the default input method, but it will improve user interaction in all applications if the user chooses to use it. For example, you will be able to play a virtual piano by touching virtual keys on the screen, easily drag photos around the screen, rotate and zoom photos with two fingers and employ other multi-touch-based gestures to manipulate objects on the screen. The company first demonstrated these features at the WSJ’s D: All Things Digital conference in May.
Microsoft is aiming Windows 7 for a late 2009 or early 2010 release (and according to our sources Q4 is the targeted time frame, since Microsoft does not want to miss the Christmas season again). If the company will be out by Christmas 2009, it will beat Apple in its own game, being the first to bring multi-touch user interface to the PC market. Apple’s next OS X version dubbed Snow Leopard is schedule for an early 2009 released. For the first time, Apple’s OS X won’t be focused on new end-user features. Instead, Apple said it will optimize OS code, re-write it for full 64-bit support and support GPUs for general-purpose processing tasks.