Microsoft is looking to learn from its past difficulties and is pushing hardware partners to adopt a more proactive approach

Last week, after months of tight-lipped silence, Microsoft debuted Windows 7 to the press in a keynote at the Californian D6 conference.  The new operating system was clearly explained not to be a new architecture from Windows Vista, but rather an iterative improvement on Windows Server 2008 and Vista code.

The new OS will heavily tout "multi-touch" capabilities, similar to the iPhone.  In its current design, it also features an OS X-like dock, which marks a departure from the standard Windows start bar.  Other changes seemed mainly cosmetic, but Windows is promising even with the rushed product delivery cycle, when Windows 7 is released in 2009, it will provide many new useful services.

As Microsoft's top leaders, Chairman and founder Bill Gates and Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, have publicly committed to moving the release date up from 2010 to 2009, Microsoft has begun an early drive to urge hardware manufacturers to begin developing their drivers and testing them on upcoming beta versions of the OS.

By testing the beta versions of the OS, Microsoft hopes to avoid one of the major problems that plagued Windows Vista's early days, particularly those of the 64-bit version -- driver incompatibility.  Microsoft is adopting a carrot and stick approach for driver testing.  Hardware manufacturers who fail to heed Microsoft's bidding won't qualify for Microsoft's Windows Logo certified compatibility program for Windows 7 or Vista.  In a bulletin (PDF) Microsoft states, "Beginning with the first beta of Windows 7 all Windows Vista submissions must include a complete CPK with tests logs from Windows 7."

When Microsoft mentions CPK, they are talking about the electronics testing process. 

While the exact release date of the first beta has not been announced to the public, it is likely to land within a few months.  This would allow hardware manufacturers forewarning to prepare to do Microsoft's bidding.

While Microsoft’s new stance on hardware may seem a bit harsh or dictatorial, it does promise to help ensure less compatibility issues.  To date, issues persist in Vista.  DailyTech previous reported how certain chipsets are incompatible with Windows Vista Service Pack 1, preventing users from receiving valuable security patches and bugfixes.

It seems clear, though, that while Microsoft doesn't want to toss out the Windows Vista base code, it has learned from some of Vista's most salient mistakes.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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