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Microsoft's Windows 7 was looking good running on an ASUS laptop (with bamboo paneling) at WinHEC. The OS is set to ship in mid 2009, much earlier than expected.  (Source: Ina Fried/CNET News)
Windows 7 is set to drop mid-year 2009, says Microsoft

At Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), an important yearly event for the tech giant, new hardware details on the upcoming Windows 7 weren't the only revelation that Microsoft had in store.  Perhaps the most significant development of the conference came as a minor clarification -- Microsoft set a solid timeframe for when it plans to release Windows 7, barring unforeseen problems.

Originally, speculation was that Microsoft might field a Windows Vista successor in 2011 or 2012 as there was over 5 years between the release of Windows XP and Windows Vista.  However, with less than glowing reception of Vista, largely due to poor hardware partner support and a large footprint, Microsoft stepped up its efforts to launch its new Windows OS, which would set right the places where Vista went wrong.

Early this year, 2010 was what some Microsoft executives were saying to expect for a release date.  However, as the year progressed, Microsoft's top executives became increasingly optimistic that the OS could be delivered in late 2009.  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer first floated the possibility of a 2009 release earlier this year.

Microsoft director Doug Howe showed slides in a WinHEC presentation that all but confirmed a 2009 release -- and even earlier than expected.  His slides stated that Microsoft will be releasing Windows 7 mid-year, in time to be included on the machines to be sold during the holiday buying season.  Mr. Howe stated, "Definitely the holiday focus is going to be on 7."

Also revealed by Mr. Howe were more details on Microsoft's secretive Velocity program aimed at improving Windows Vista PC quality.  The program, according to Microsoft, will run through next spring, conveniently terminating at about the time that Windows 7 will be preparing to ship.

The new program was initially only open to select computer manufacturers, but will now be opened to select software and hardware partners as well.  The basic premise is that the partners will have to engineer their products to work optimally with Vista and will have to undergo rigorous certification testing.  Partners will benefit from the good publicity, and Mr. Howe revealed in a slide that Microsoft might do some advertising for their products first-hand.

No list of the criteria was given, but one of the criteria, confirmed by Mr. Howe, was the ability to boot Windows Vista and have it ready to run within 50 seconds.  Many of the Velocity-certified machines boot significantly faster than this, according to Mr. Howe, but Microsoft wanted to set a widely obtainable goal.

After the debacle of Microsoft's "Vista Capable" program, which saw the company's stickers placed on underpowered bargain machines clearly not Vista ready, Velocity is both an effort on Microsoft's part to show that it's turned over a new leave and an effort to overall improve Vista machine quality.  The program launched in July 2007.

The program targeted the sluggish system performance that was plaguing many Windows Vista machines.  Originally intended as a three month program, it was extended far past the planned termination, due to Microsoft realizing there was still much work to be done.  In particular the program aims to speed up the time it takes for Vista computers to start up, shut down, sleep, and wake up.  Other goals include that all the hardware and software is completely compatible with Vista, as compatibility is a perennial trouble-spot or Vista.

Microsoft's labs in Redmond, Wash. are in charge of the Velocity testing.

Overall, Windows observers should be able to appreciate that Microsoft sincerely seems to be trying to improve the OS.  However, what it can't improve like memory and processing footprint, should be remedied with the release of Windows 7, which has now been all but confirmed for mid next year.   

One last interesting note -- Microsoft previously stated that it would release Vista's Service Pack 2 before Windows 7 -- so that means that if it sticks with this plan, Vista SP2 is likely coming in Spring of 2009.  Stay tuned for more details on that one.

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RE: Footprint?
By kevinkreiser on 11/7/2008 10:53:13 AM , Rating: 2
more content in less space is always better. personally i'd rather the install use less space if it is possible. and with ssd's coming into play, space is a commodity.

RE: Footprint?
By mikefarinha on 11/7/2008 11:26:00 AM , Rating: 2
With Windows Vista and the proliferation of cheap & large HDDs Microsoft made a philosophical change to how you deal with additional functionality.

Prior to Windows Vista you had the concept of 'add/remove programs.' This let you actually free up disk space when you removed stuff but conversely you had to use the install disk to add features back in.

With Windows Vista you have the concept of turning features on or off. This is why they changed the control panel description from "Add/Remove Programs" to "Programs and Features."

When you install Windows Vista all the features are installed, you can choose to turn them on or off instead of adding or removing.

The end result is that it makes it easier to work with Vista since you don't always have to go dig out the install disk when you want to add something.

RE: Footprint?
By Lerianis on 11/8/2008 1:36:15 AM , Rating: 2
No, all the features are not installed. Some are left out, it is only the MOST OFTEN USED, according to Microsoft, ones that are put on your hard drive.

Or, at least they are only UNZIPPED AND UNPACKED when they are chosen to be installed. Really, most of Vista is 'drivers, drivers, those nasty freaking dri-vers' (sings stuff in quotes) to the tune of 4 Gigs.

If they would make it so that if you installed something new, you had to put in it's install disk OR it immediately went online to find the driver or you had to put in the Vista disk..... Vista would be about the size of Windows 7.

RE: Footprint?
By epobirs on 11/8/2008 4:25:11 PM , Rating: 2
The change really started with Windows 2000. This was the first version of Windows that put the driver library on the boot volume by default. Huge improvement. Before that, NT4 users had to copy the i386 directory to the system for themselves. Likewise, there was the CABS folder that needed to be copied onto Win9x systems.

I'm entirely happy with the Vista way of doing things for desktops and fullscale laptops. Microsoft admits they went wrong in not offering more options for those in special circumstances but they didn't see the netbooks coming.

The needed options would allow the installer to selectively trim categories of device drivers from going on the system. This makes up the great majority of the space consumed. For instance, my current laptop doesn't have the old PCMCIA slots, they've been replaced by the ExpressCard slot. So there isn't much value in having drivers for any PCMCIA device on my laptop. Likewise for SCSI controllers and devices. Those probably don't have much of a footprint but it is an example that comes to mind.

On my laptops' 320 GB drive I would probably only eliminate the most obvious of device categories the unit will never encounter. On a desktop, where 500 GB is quickly becoming an entry level drive, I'd not bother at all. On a netbook however, it would be a very worthy effort. Especially if the OEM can do most of the work in advance and Windows Update could still make the whole library available.

RE: Footprint?
By Silver2k7 on 11/7/2008 4:07:14 PM , Rating: 2
" and with ssd's coming into play, space is a commodity. "

Thats perhaps why SSD isnt really in play yet.. cause they are too small.. Bitmoicro or some company do have a 1.6TB 3.5" SSD but until they let the price down to the harddrive levels SSD won't come to my computer.

10-15GB isnt that much, if someone is cheap and buying a small hdd then they have nobody but themselfs to blame. 1TB is good value today.. even 1.5TB is not that expensive. If your a laptop owner, get an external drive to store things on.

RE: Footprint?
By emboss on 11/8/2008 2:55:39 AM , Rating: 2
Yup, for me SSDs are just too expensive for the space I need. I just got a new laptop and put my "standard" dev environment on it - Vista-x64 (I'd prefer XP x64, but it's a long story ...) + Visual Studio + Xilinx ISE + Office + Delphi. Current HDD usage is 76 GB (that real GB, not HDD-manufacturer-GB). And I still haven't done things like put on the Windows DDK, Opera, and the usual collection of other apps and stuff. All up I wouldn't be surprised if I hit 80-85 GB, and that's without any data.

The laptop was pretty cheap - AU$500 with another AU$110 spent on upgrades (*). Even the craptastic OCZ JMicron 128 GB drives go for nearly AU$600. Assuming I managed to strip things back and get it to be inside 64 base-10 GB, I'd still be looking at over AU$1K for a MTRON drive or similar. There's simply no way I can justify spending twice as much on the drive as I did on the rest of the laptop.

(*) I was actually surprised how much laptop ~AU$600 gets you nowadays - after the upgrades, it's got a T5750, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB HDD, 15.4 inch 1280x800 screen (Intel X3100 graphics), 802.11g, DVD+/-RW, ~3.5 hours battery life (Visual Studio typing/compiling). Weight is spec'd at 2.7 kg (6 lbs). Sure, it's not going to be much good at 3D games, but for work duties the only negative points I've found so far are the screen resolution and the lack of TV out.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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