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.