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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 The0ne on 11/7/2008 11:10:37 AM , Rating: 3
My personal issue is the bloat that gets crammed in a piece of software, whether that's MS software or any other. It is because of the advances in storage devices that managers (imo) are pushing programmers to put everything they can in there without any thought of optimization. I think many of us remember the good old computing days where great programs fit into a few floppy disks.

Although a bit off-topic, I would think most embedded firmware programmers would agree mainstream software could be done more efficiently.

The point is if there is no thought to even consider optimization then some improvements will never see the light of day. Gadgets wouldn't be so small, light, efficient if there were improvements and optimization. Software, I think, is just getting away with it because well...people either don't understand or don't are. Yes, I have almost 4TB but that doesn't mean the software should get so bloated to take up 10gig+ For an OS? I don't think so.

RE: Footprint?
By acer905 on 11/7/2008 11:19:48 AM , Rating: 2
Lol, yeah i remember my first computer, a Tandy 1000 with dual 3.5" floppy drives. One disk held the OS and a handful of programs. And anything that wouldn't go on that disk went on a second one...

RE: Footprint?
By XBMC Fan on 11/7/2008 12:24:36 PM , Rating: 3
I had a Tandy 1000 as well. I think you mean dual 5.25 floppy drives...

To chime in on footprint, yes, memory and hard drive storage are cheaper these days, but that shouldn't be an excuse to be sloppy. Besides, it still takes time to read all of that crap off the hard drive, even with slowly increasing mechanical hard drive performance and the advent of SSDs.

RE: Footprint?
By acer905 on 11/7/2008 5:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
Nope, never had 5.25's for it. Had those for my second computer... though i can't remember what it was... I actually still have the Tandy... complete with monitor, and ribbon printer. And it works perfectly

RE: Footprint?
By Lerianis on 11/8/2008 1:44:58 AM , Rating: 2
Little problem: you are automatically assuming that they are being sloppy. Truth is: most Microsoft code is as optimized as it is going to get, even WITH a total rewrite.

You add more 'funky pictures', more 'funky schemes', etc..... it's going to take a lot of space for those pictures, schemes, pointers, etc.

RE: Footprint?
By TomZ on 11/7/2008 12:03:14 PM , Rating: 1
The point is if there is no thought to even consider optimization then some improvements will never see the light of day.

Your approach only makes sense if engineering labor is cheap or free, which is not generally the case. The economics are such that fast CPUs are cheap, RAM is cheap, HDD space is cheap, but labor is expensive.

Therefore, it makes sense for software teams to focus on developing and testing new functionality, and optimizing only on an as-needed basis where performance and/or small footprint is an important requirement. Blanket optimizing everything as you suggest/imply is a waste of valuable resources.

RE: Footprint?
By Lerianis on 11/8/2008 1:46:49 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, right now.... totally optimizing everything is a VAST waste of resources. That's why most adults have a 'if it works, don't replace it!' view of the world.... they gone through 'optimization' of their jobs like my parents have with new hardware at their lab.... it usually means MORE work and less actually getting done.

RE: Footprint?
By nangryo on 11/8/2008 4:09:41 AM , Rating: 2
I full agree with you Mr. TheOne.........

But Mr. Z and his follower will disagree..., with 'why not use the capacity when it's there' reason.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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