The Windows 7 Team

Last week we reported on the Engineering 7 weblog, a weblog headed by Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky on which they promised to chronicle the development process of Windows 7, while allowing us normal folk to give feedback. They are keeping their promise, as the latest post by Sinofsky offers some interesting insights into the various development teams working on Windows 7.

The blog post starts with some household announcements, mostly dealing with the responses and comments received after opening the blog last week. Sinofsky assures us the blog isn’t a PR stunt or marketing ploy. “This blog is the real deal – typos, mistakes, and all. There’s no intermediary or vetting of the posts,” he writes, “We have folks on the team who will be contributing, but we’re not having any posts written by anyone other than who signs it.”

The meat of the post is an introduction to the Windows 7 team. The team is headed by Sinofsky himself (Windows client experience) and Jon DeVaan (core operating system, stuff like kernel, device infrastructure, etc.), and consists of 25 ‘feature teams’. What is a feature team?

A feature team represents those that own a specific part of Windows 7 – the code, features, quality, and overall development. The feature teams represent the locus of work and coordination across the team. This also provides a much more manageable size – feature teams fit in meeting spaces, can go to movies, and so on. On average a feature team is about 40 developers, but there are a variety of team sizes. There are two parts to a feature team: what the team works on and who makes up a team.

Sinofsky lists 23 of the 25 feature teams – the names are pretty much self-explanatory.

  • Applets and Gadgets
  • Assistance and Support Technologies
  • Core User Experience
  • Customer Engineering and Telemetry
  • Deployment and Component Platform
  • Desktop Graphics
  • Devices and Media
  • Devices and Storage
  • Documents and Printing
  • Engineering System and Tools
  • File System
  • Find and Organize
  • Fundamentals
  • Internet Explorer (including IE 8 down-level)
  • International
  • Kernel & VM
  • Media Center
  • Networking – Core
  • Networking – Enterprise
  • Networking – Wireless
  • Security
  • User Interface Platform
  • Windows App Platform

In addition to the feature teams, there are people working on all aspects of Windows 7, in four groups: content development, product planning, product design, and research and usability. People often comment on the size and manageability of the Windows team, but Sinofsky isn’t worried. “The way that I look at this is that our job is to have the Windows team be the right size – that sounds cliche but I mean by that is that the team is neither too large nor too small, but is effectively managed so that the work of the team reflects the size of the team and you see the project as having the benefits we articulate.”

Overall, Sinofsky provides some interesting insights into how the Windows team is structured, but it is of course difficult to say if they’re on the right track or not. Few of us here will have experience in managing the largest software project in the world.


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