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A peak at Device Stage's display when looking at options for your cell phone. Note documentation and functionality are both easily accessible.  (Source: Microsoft)
The latest developments from Windows 7 focus on hardware

With the bits of Windows 7's pre-beta and milestone releases taking the torrent community by storm, there's more excitement than ever surrounding the highlights of the UI and top level features of Microsoft's upcoming OS, demonstrated and released at its Professional Developers Conference.  Many are pleased to see Windows 7 to be running leaner than Windows Vista, despite featuring rich graphics.

An important focus at Microsoft for Windows 7 has been hardware, though, not software.  Hardware was a virtual nightmare for both Microsoft and Vista users, when poor developer support led to incompatibility with many devices at launch.  Vowing not to repeat this problem, Microsoft is rethinking how it approaches hardware with its new OS.

At its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, it released more official pre-beta copies of Windows 7 to hardware developers.  And it gave the same features overview, this time with a hardware twist.

Leading the way is Device Stage, a new invention from Microsoft.  This intuitive idea is something you might expect from OS X, but it’s a sign of the newfound creativity brewing at Microsoft.  The new center allows the user to select from any device attached to the system.  Microsoft is providing an interface that allows the user to access any capabilities of the device and to go online to fetch manuals and documentation on the device.  Microsoft is being stricter with hardware partners, demanding they provide quality interfaces and information.

An example of how this feature would work is if you plugged in your cell phone -- say a Blackberry Pearl. Clicking on the device in question, Device Stage has a section for manuals, a file browser where you can manage content or look through the files.  Any interface functionality, which the hardware provides will be accessible in Device Stage.

Julie Larson-Green, vice president of program management for the Windows Experience describes, "I can set up my sync capabilities [on my Motorola phone].  I can manage the media on my device. I can browse files. I can go and find that documentation because I probably threw out the manual when I got the box, so I can go online and get that. And anything that the device does can be exposed through the Device Stage."

Also improved is Microsoft's code to exploit SSD drives.  SSDs will be faster than before.  They will also provide much faster wake up and hibernation.  According to initial reports, the difference between a Windows 7 PC equipped with a SSD and a Windows Vista PC is visibly dramatic when it comes to wake-up and sleep times.

Microsoft says it is planning "Windows enhancements that take advantage of the latest updates to standardized command sets, such as ATA."  SSD makers are enthused about Microsoft's support as they feel it may give the turbulent industry the boost it needs.

While much of the Windows 7 hardware interface upgrades will require some work from developers, Microsoft is also mollifying them, by explaining that they will have less work to do adapting to the underlying interface than with Vista, as Windows 7 shares much with Vista on a base hardware level.

Microsoft is expected to elaborate more on new hardware features in coming weeks.

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RE: Looks good
By amanojaku on 11/5/2008 2:34:15 PM , Rating: 0
I agree that the article provides a lot of interesting features. Unfortunately, I don't trust MS's promises any more. They always cut half of the useful features before the product reaches the market, and what's left doesn't work right until an update or service pack. Whatever happened to WinFS?

RE: Looks good
By TheFace on 11/5/2008 2:46:14 PM , Rating: 2
WinFS, from the linked wiki, looks interesting. Although I wonder how much of the stated performance issues were problematic. It sounds as if the file system had to parse through lots of metadata to operate. Although, my knowledge of file systems is elementary at best, it still seems like a promising system.

RE: Looks good
By mmntech on 11/5/2008 2:56:26 PM , Rating: 2
As long as WinFS means no more defragmenting, I'm for it. It's good to hear that Microsoft is learning from Vista's mistakes and at least trying to streamline the OS.

RE: Looks good
By Clauzii on 11/5/2008 3:00:19 PM , Rating: 1
Isn't WinFS the file system that Vista was supposed to have had to begin with?

RE: Looks good
By Spivonious on 11/5/2008 3:09:17 PM , Rating: 5
No, it was simply a database operating on top of NTFS. The idea was that users would query for files instead of using folder structures. It's been replaced by the indexer, AQS, and libraries.

RE: Looks good
By Clauzii on 11/5/2008 3:35:04 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, I see. Since folders makes more sense to me than a 'rubble-of-files' that seems like ok then.

Just like it makes sense for MS to look at the SSD routines etc., since that IS the future of storage.

RE: Looks good
By Spivonious on 11/5/2008 3:50:17 PM , Rating: 4
Yeah, it took me a while to adjust to searching for things instead of going to their location, but it's actually faster to search.

I hit windows-key, type "visu" and hit enter and bam Visual Studio opens up. Much faster than clicking start->Programs->Visual Studio->Visual Studio.

I'm looking for photos of my dog, so I click start->Photos and then type tag:George in the search box. Bam, all the photos that I've tagged with George show up. I don't even know how I'd do this in XP without some third party software.

With Windows 7's libraries, this experience will only get better, especially since any application can tie itself into the libraries. You make changes in one place and it instantly affects all of the others.

This is the most excited I've been about an OS release since 95.

RE: Looks good
By Diesel Donkey on 11/5/2008 6:31:21 PM , Rating: 2
I don't even know how I'd do this in XP without some third party software.

Google Desktop gets the job done quite nicely. Also, the sidebar that comes with it is, in my opinion, far more useful than the gadget bar in Vista, simply because you can bring it to the forefront just by hitting shift twice. To search your indexed files just press CTRL twice (as opposed to pressing the Windows key). Works great!

RE: Looks good
By Spivonious on 11/5/2008 7:10:30 PM , Rating: 3
Hence the reason I said "without some third party software" :)

And I couldn't search for tagged photos in XP, because XP didn't support tags on photos.

RE: Looks good
By Flunk on 11/6/2008 12:12:28 AM , Rating: 3
You can now get the windows search update for XP and get Vista-style search in XP. It's on Windows Update as an optional update.

RE: Looks good
By Clauzii on 11/6/2008 6:00:22 AM , Rating: 2
Seems like the 'FS' tricked me. I always known FS as 'File System'.... not 'Future Storage' as it is in WinFS.

OK, don't know why my post got rated down, but thanks for answering my question :)

RE: Looks good
By Spuke on 11/5/08, Rating: -1
RE: Looks good
By retrospooty on 11/5/2008 8:17:18 PM , Rating: 2
No, he was right... Originally Vista WAS supposed to have WinFS. MS decides they had to drop it to release Vista on time (which was late anyhow).

Windows 7 is looking pretty damn good though. Streamlining is a good thing.

RE: Looks good
By piroroadkill on 11/6/2008 7:56:36 AM , Rating: 2
It was supposed to be in codename Longhorn, after the code reset, they.. downgraded their plans for Vista.

RE: Looks good
By Spivonious on 11/5/2008 3:00:03 PM , Rating: 3
Windows 7 is "API Complete" which means no features will be added and no features will be removed. The public beta is in a few months. From all accounts, even the M3 build is extremely stable and fast.

This follows the historical pattern of MS OS releases:

New -> Improved
95 98
Me/2000 XP
Vista 7

WinFS has had its functionality replaced by a combination of the indexer, AQS, and the new libraries feature.

RE: Looks good
By Myrandex on 11/5/2008 3:22:30 PM , Rating: 5
ME is just "the OS that shall not be named" and I wouldn't consider it in your graph.


RE: Looks good
By Spivonious on 11/5/2008 3:31:26 PM , Rating: 2
It did introduce some features that are still with us today, including System Restore. But yes, I agree that the 9x codebase had gotten so bloated by then that it's better to just forget Me.

RE: Looks good
By Flunk on 11/6/2008 12:15:01 AM , Rating: 3
To be fair those features actually were not ported to NT but totally rewritten.

RE: Looks good
By mindless1 on 11/5/2008 4:19:04 PM , Rating: 4
You've ME in the wrong place,

95 98 ME

You've also misused the word "improved" and should have used "features added".

RE: Looks good
By MonkeyPaw on 11/5/2008 3:10:06 PM , Rating: 5
They always cut half of the useful features before the product reaches the market...

Are you sure WinFS fit that description? People like to complain about not having WinFS in Vista, but does anyone know why they wanted it or even what it was supposed to be? Many assume that WinFS was to replace NTFS, when in fact it was to perform on top of NTFS. MS instead gave us the search features WinFS promised without adding the overlay. Vista never saw the actual "feature," but it still implemented all the functionality.

Vista is doing what it needed to do--make a much more secure environment than XP with an updated driver model, paving the way for Windows 7. And before the Vista hate begins, keep in mind that the next version of Windows is coming no sooner than Apple's next version of OSX. It's called a product cycle.

RE: Looks good
By theapparition on 11/6/2008 8:34:05 AM , Rating: 3
Completely correct.
WinFS (Future Storage) sounded like it had some neat features, but in reality those features were not that groundbreaking, it was horribly slow, and was a complete security nightmare that the development team had no fix for. Vista currently does 95% of what WinFS was supposed to do, without any of the horrible side effects.

WinFS is dead. There is no development currently, and no plans to start it back up. Let it go.

RE: Looks good
By Smilin on 11/5/2008 4:44:49 PM , Rating: 2
GET OVER WINFS. Not yours. That gripe is so old.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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