‘Engineering Windows 7’

Windows 7 has been making waves around the net for a while now, and we already know some of the more encompassing goals of Microsoft’s next operating system release. It’s going to be built on top of the foundations laid out by Vista and Server 2008, but it will not increase hardware requirements. There’s going to be a multitouch framework, and a new mystery taskbar. That’s more or less all we know. Microsoft also said they were going to be more tight-lipped during the development process, something they will continue to do, but they did open a blog today: Engineering Windows 7. The E7 blog is written by Jon DeVaan and Steven Sinofsky, two senior engineering managers for the Windows 7 product.

The first entry to the E7 blog reveals some interesting commitments by Microsoft, most notably they will no longer get all excited about possible features that in the end don’t make the cut – like WinFS. As Sinofsky and DeVaan explain:

Related to disclosure is the idea of how we make sure not to set expectations around the release that end up disappointing you – features that don’t make it, claims that don’t stick, or support we don’t provide. Starting from the first days of developing Windows 7, we have committed as a team to “promise and deliver”. That’s our goal – share with you what we’re going to get done, why we’re doing it, and deliver it with high quality and on time.

This little paragraph is yet another upfront, explicit admission from Microsoft that they more or less frakked up the development process of Longhorn and Vista, by promising features they couldn’t deliver, or couldn’t deliver to their fullest potential. However, this is not the only interesting thing found in the blog. Microsoft will also use the blog to communicate directly with the various different types of parties who have stakes in what the next Windows will look like.

The audience of enthusiasts, bloggers, and those that are the most passionate about Windows represent the folks we are dedicating this blog to. With this blog we’re opening up a two-way discussion about how we are making Windows 7. Windows has all the challenges of every large scale software project – picking features, designing them, developing them, and delivering them with high quality. Windows has an added challenge of doing so for an extraordinarily diverse set of customers. As a team and as individuals on the team we continue to be humbled by this responsibility.

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.

While Microsoft has been very enthusiastic about using blogs to discuss upcoming products (most notably, the Internet Explorer blog which has already pushed Microsoft to revise certain development decisions), having such a blog centred solely on Windows is something new. The Windows Vista Team Blog was different – it informed users of Vista, yes, but it didn’t really influence where Vista was going. The E7 blogs promises that us normal folk can exert a more direct influence on where Windows 7 is going.


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