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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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I like Windows.
By gochichi on 11/5/2008 6:58:58 PM , Rating: 5
Frankly, I think that the main "problem" is that Microsoft has too much market share to turn its back on its past OSes. There is no "clean start" for Microsoft.

It's amazing to me (as an owner of Mac hardware, compared to most Mac users a Mac expert) is that nobody talks about the amazingness that I can still run everything ever released for a Microsoft operating system on the latest version (namely Vista). Sure, you need to learn a very simple procedure, namely "run in compatibility mode" and then select the appropriate system. And it will eventually run fine. Dos-Box does a fantastic job of running things that are older than Windows.

That level of compatibility is ten times better than any other system. Not only were there more applications for Windows to begin with, but there are more YEARS of applications available for Windows.

Mac redid everything (what did they have to loose?) when they went to OS X. Then they redid everything again by switching to Intel. Old users get slapped in the face which they can afford to do because their market share is growing significantly.

Microsoft can't slap us all in the face, it's still 90% of the market IMHO. So anyhow, Vista is more than adequate. Windows 7, I think will be amazing.

RE: I like Windows.
By chronodekar on 11/5/2008 9:21:42 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you that each time a major change happens with the Mac, that the old users DO get slapped in the face.

I don't mean to be rude, but a part of what makes progress, well Progress is that you need to let go of the old when their time is up.

I mean if there really IS that much of a demand for old software, then someone would create SOME kind of compactibility for it, right?

And as far as the software industry goes, this is one of the reasons why we learn that frameworks are important. They make transitioning old code MUCH easier. ( I'm talking about .NET, Java ... etc )

Just because someone wants to use their old TV, doesn't mean that everyone else should put up with the grainy analog transmissions ? We support legacy systems for 5 - 10 years and then, it's time to find/ build new systems.

By sticking to using old stuff, you impend your own efficiency.

RE: I like Windows.
By inighthawki on 11/6/2008 12:11:32 AM , Rating: 2
The problem isnt with old software that is developed by larger companies. Any really big software in demand can be updated to newer version, the problem arises when someone wants something that was very useful to them, but maybe also happened to be the side-project of some random guy on the internet, or a small utility that was made by one guy. Some of these products haven't been updated since windows 98 or the beginning of XP days.

The TV analogy is actually very flawed, because it only takes a little work and hardware from very large corporations to rebroadcast the exact same stuff in digital. In the windows world, not everyone is a big corporation who can simply update their applications to please everyone with the same function.

PLEASE don't get me wrong, i'm dying for a change in windows, a fresh start if possible. Dual booting a "new" and "legacy" version of windows could be nice. I would love to see microsoft roll out a fresh, clean new API, something which is far more efficient and compatible with everything we have now.

RE: I like Windows.
By Spivonious on 11/6/2008 10:11:36 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree. I'm sure Microsoft is constantly improving the underlying implementation of the Win32 API, and what does it hurt to leave the old functions in there? They already made huge changes with Vista by rewriting the graphics, sound, and networking subsystems, as well as providing much higher kernel-mode security.

And the problem is definitely with old software developed by large companies. Why would a company upgrade the OS if it meant half of their programs stopped working?

A large market share is a blessing and a curse. Apple was able to rewrite their APIs because they had such a small marketshare, and it was mostly with users that upgrade software often (graphics design, home users).

We still have PCs with NT4 on them, simply because the software that is needed for business operations will not run on anything higher. It is not worth the money to upgrade the OS "just because" and then completely rewrite the software, only to wind up exactly where we were.

RE: I like Windows.
By Visual on 11/6/2008 3:43:45 AM , Rating: 2
"impede", surely?

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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