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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 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.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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