Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) is in full swing this week, hot on the heels of the recent PDC. The main subject is, of course, Windows 7. This being a conference focused on hardware makers, Microsoft made a whole slew of announcements related to how Windows 7 will deal with hardware.
Microsoft stressed that Windows 7 will actually reduce resource usage compared to Windows Vista, and make better use of the resources it has at its disposal. Drivers in Windows 7 are loaded in parallel (instead of serial as in previous versions) and services are started on-demand, reducing boot time. Microsoft also promises that memory usage does not increase as the number of open windows increases. They claim that this rather noble goal is achieved by letting the video memory handle the drawing of all windows, instead of it being handled by both video memory and regular memory. Windows 7 also uses less juice, which should appeal to laptop users.
The work on performance seems to be paying off, as the company demonstrated Windows 7 running on an Asus Eee PC (1.6Ghz Atom, 1GB of RAM, 16GB SSD). “You don’t have to go down-level, you don’t need anything stripped-down,” Microsoft’s Mike Angiulo said, “This is a full Windows experience on this PC… on the 16-gig SSD, with room to spare.” Seeing most (if not all) netbook manufacturers opted for Windows XP for their Windows-powered netbooks, Microsoft really needed to do something about this. The popularity of Linux-powered netbooks most surely also played a major role in this.
An area of major confusion (and the cause of a class action lawsuit) was the rather complicated sticker scheme that Microsoft devised for Windows Vista. There were two different stickers for computers (one for Windows Vista, and one specifically for Windows Vista Basic), and two different stickers for devices. Microsoft has learned from this one, and is consolidating those four stickers into one. For Windows 7, hardware makers need to complete only a single certification program. Microsoft is also pushing hardware makers to start testing their devices for compatibility with Windows 7 right away, using the PDC build, and then in January 2009, the public beta. According to Redmond, there shouldn’t be many problems with compatibility due to the fact that little low-level changes were made between vista and 7.
As said, the public beta of Windows 7 will arrive in January 2009, with the product going gold late 2009 – if all goes to plan.