On the second day of PDC 2008 in Los Angeles Microsoft gave the first public preview of the next version of their client operating system code-named Windows 7.
The demo was held in the conference’s “Big Room” and the hype was high. As I was waiting for the very first Windows 7 desktop to show up on the giant screen, I was feeling a mixture of excitement and skepticism.
Well, I didn’t have to wait long to get a grasp on Microsoft’s next client operating system. The essential nature of Windows 7, in fact, revealed itself already within the first ten minutes of the demo. Let me synthesize it for you with a simple equation:
Windows 7 = Windows Vista SP2 + Multi-touch
In my opinion Windows 7 is really what Vista should have been in its first release back in November 2006. Microsoft used this release to polish the rough edges in the operating system like resource usage, responsiveness and user access control (UAC), amongst others. I really don’t blame them for that. They applied the hard lessons learned with Vista and used this second release to stabilize and strengthen the OS without introducing too much change. This way they hope to re-gain the users’ confidence in Windows. Here is a brief overview of some of the key improvements made in Windows 7:
- Improved thumbnail previews in the task bar
- Possibility to collect and hide system messages in the tray bar
- Gadgets can now be placed anywhere on the desktop
- Improved dialog to customize the desktop theme
- Possibility to control how often UAC will ask you to confirm your actions
- Reduced memory footprint
- Reduced amount of IO operations and registry access
- Increased UI responsiveness
- Possibility to mount virtual hard-disk images (VHD) as bootable drives
But the biggest new feature Windows 7 offers customers is really native support for multi-touch computing. This means that with 7 you will be able to interact with your desktop and applications exclusively through a touch-screen. Microsoft even made available an on-screen virtual keyboard, which effectively makes the monitor the only interface needed to interact with the computer.
In my opinion this is a step in the right direction. It is evident by looking at how mobile devices have evolved in the latest years starting with Apple’s iPhone, how natural human interfaces like touch, gestures and voice is the way we will prefer to interact with computers in the future. It really feels natural to click buttons, move items and zoom documents or pictures in and out using your fingers.
All of the attendees here at PDC 2008 got a copy of the pre-beta release of Windows 7, so I will be posting a little more detailed tour of what’s in there soon.
In conclusion let me finish off this brief overview by quoting Steven Sinosfky when talking about the Windows 7 roadmap. According to him Windows 7′s development lifecycle will be divided into four main phases: pre-beta, beta, release candidate and RTM. The release dates coming out of each phase will be decided dynamically based on when the previous phase completed. Hence the final release date cannot be determined at this point in time. However he concluded saying:
“[...] we believe in shipping a new version of Windows every three years.”
And with Vista gone RTM in the fall of 2006, I’ll let you do the math.
Windows Azure is an application hosting infrastructure service where customers can have their software running without having to worry about the costs of deploying as well as maintaining server and network hardware. Microsoft offers 24/7 hosting based on virtual servers in a configuration that can easily be adapted to scale up depending on the customer’s needs.
This is cloud computing in a nutshell. Software will no longer run exclusively on a client machine or inside the fences of a corporate intranet, but will be able to take advantage of the functionality offered by ubiquitous services that live on the Internet, a.k.a. “the cloud”
Windows Azure is the software and hardware platform provided by Microsoft to create a cloud where customers can deploy applications that will available through the Internet. Right now Windows Azure supports applications built on top of the .NET Framework, SharePoint, or Dynamics CMS. Moreover the platform offers permanent storage with SQL Server and a series of centralized information sharing and synchronization services that go under the name Live Services.
Microsoft is proving the value of Windows Azure by betting on its own platform, and will soon start to give customers the option to buy server installations of their products on the cloud. This means that customers will be able to have a Microsoft server product up and running really quickly by delegating configuration and maintenance to Microsoft, all of this for the price of a subscription. This concept is called Microsoft Online Services, and it the current offering are included Exchange, Office Live, SharePoint, and Microsoft Dynamics CMS.
This is the first of the big announcements made here at PDC 2008 in Los Angeles, USA. Today they will give the first public preview of the next version of Windows, code-named Windows 7. Stay tuned!
October 27 – 30 I will be attending Microsoft Professional Developer Conference 2008 in Los Angeles, USA.
PDC is considered one of the most important events in the IT industry as it is usually the place where Microsoft makes its big announcements. Because its nature, the conference is now held every year, but only in the face of a big new technology wave.
Last PDC was held in 2005 where Microsoft announced and previewed the next version of Windows codename “Longhorn” (originally meant to be Vista’s codename, but that later lead to the development of Windows Server 2008).
Before that, on PDC 2000 the world was introduced to a new development platform called the .NET Framework, a new web programming model called ASP+ (later to be known as ASP.NET) and got a sneak-peak of the next Windows code-named “Whistler”, which later became Windows XP.
This year PDC focuses around the Software + Services model. This is a new style of building applications that consume data stored on the Internet, where it is exposed through a series of services. These application leverage the ubiquity of the Internet to give users access to their data, whether it might be work documents or family pictures, from anywhere. Of course this is a big shift from the model we have been used to for the last 20 years, where applications store data locally on the computer.
Another big topic is of course, as it is tradition, the next release of Windows, this time simply code-named “Windows 7″. Rumors say it will be a “minor upgrade” to Windows Vista, but a the same time Microsoft is talking about big innovations like support for multi-touch-computing. Mixed signals then, we will just have to wait a little longer to find out what it really is all about.
I will be posting my impressions and whatever interesting piece of information I can get during the conference.