No New Kernel, Builds on Vista

So far, Microsoft has been very tight-lipped about Windows 7, carefully trying to prevent another Longhorn PR disaster where the company promised the heavens and more for Longhorn, but in the end ditched Longhorn to make way for Vista. Chris Flores (Windows Client Communications Team) as well as Steven Sinofsky, has broken the silence a little bit to talk about Windows 7. In addition, it is believed Windows 7 will make its first official debut at the D6 All Things Digital conference today, during a keynote held by Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates.First of all, Flores confirmed Microsoft has indeed taken a different approach to promoting the next release of Windows. “We know that when we talk about our plans for the next release of Windows, people take action. As a result, we can significantly impact our partners and our customers if we broadly share information that later changes,” he explains, “With Windows 7, we’re trying to more carefully plan how we share information with our customers and partners. This means sharing the right level of information at the right time depending on the needs of the audience.

More interesting are the rather clear goals Flores puts forth for Windows 7:

The long-term architectural investments we introduced in Windows Vista and then refined for Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 will carry forward in Windows 7. 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. Contrary to some speculation, Microsoft is not creating a new kernel for Windows 7. Rather, we are refining the kernel architecture and componentization model introduced in Windows Vista.

Apparently, Windows 7 will focus on performance – not a bad idea seeing the lukewarm reception Vista has gotten was mostly based on its demanding requirements.

In fact, one of our design goals for Windows 7 is that it will run on the recommended hardware we specified for Windows Vista and that the applications and devices that work with Windows Vista will be compatible with Windows 7.

Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s Windows chief, also broke the silence today in an interview with CNet’s Ina Fried. He reiterated the three year time frame, where Windows 7 is scheduled for release three years after Windows Vista. Sinofsky also confirmed what Flores had to say: driver and programs that work on Vista will also work on Windows 7. “We’re very clear that drivers and software that work on Windows Vista are going to work really well on Windows 7; in fact, they’ll work the same. We’re going to not introduce additional compatibilities, particularly in the driver model.” He added that Windows Server 2008’s kernel is an evolution of Vista’s kernel, and Windows 7’s kernel will be an evolution of the Server 2008 kernel.

Ina Fried posed some interesting questions to Sinofsky, one of which is about backwards compatibility. Many people, including myself, have argued for an Apple-like approach: move backwards compatibility into a virtual machine. Sinofsky dismissed the idea of looking at backwards compatibility as a burden or challenge:

All of those IHVs and ISVs. I look at them as the key asset to the Windows and PC ecosystem. So, I don’t at all look at them like a compatibility burden or challenge, to use the words that you used, but I look at it as well, that’s the big asset that customers look to when they buy into a Windows PC. They say, hey, if I bought this printer five years ago, I want to keep using it, and I want to keep using it as part of my PC network. If I have this other piece of hardware, I want to keep using it. We do have to get better at the work that we’ve done, and, in fact, sometimes we make very, very substantial changes that are really multiyear bets.

Lastly, IStartedSomething claims that during the Ballmer-Gates keynote speech at the D6 conference today, Windows 7 will make its first public appearance. “Whether or not we’ll actually see a live build of Windows 7 or purely a technology demo of a specific feature remains a mystery, but it’s sure exciting,” the website states. In light of the rather tight-lipped approach both Sinofsky and Flores have just taken, I’m not sure whether this claim holds any water – but who knows. Be sure to keep an eye on the D6 website.


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