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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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windows7 who cares
By elcubanito on 11/9/2008 10:49:23 AM , Rating: 2
anybody think of linux they are getting better and better so why pay so much when you can get it for 0$ and work almost like xp or better

RE: windows7 who cares
By kelmon on 11/9/2008 12:28:58 PM , Rating: 2
There's a few problems there, which roughly parallel those of switching to the Mac but Linux has it worse. Your problems run roughly like the following and I'm sure I'll forget some:

* No one has heard of Linux outside of the likes of SlashDot and your company's server room. The Linux community needs to learn how to market their product.

* Even if you have heard of Linux, which one of the distributions do you choose? There is no clear "winning" distribution and the customer faces the same sort of issue that they did when Vista came out (which version should I buy?) except now the problem is much worse.

* Will it run my applications? Linux may have its own applications but they are often not as good as commercial versions available for other platforms. OpenOffice is great, for example, but let's not kid ourselves - MS Office for Windows (or even Mac) is better.

I love the idea of Linux but at the moment it really isn't going anywhere fast and the complete lack of marketing is what is holding it back. Unless someone has heard of your product then they aren't going to buy it, particularly when you are up against the 800lb gorilla that is Windows, which everyone has heard of and probably already uses. Free is great but everyone needs to advertise their "special offer".

RE: windows7 who cares
By Choppedliver on 11/9/2008 2:53:55 PM , Rating: 2
Ive been following linux since 1992 and I would agree with most of what you say. However, I do think that Ubuntu is coming close to bringing Linux to the masses. It is ridiculously easy to install, and makes wireless networking a breeze. Its absolutely gorgeous, and comes with most programs people will need. If wine can get to the point that 99% of windows programs will run, then I think you will see a major shift. It also takes much better advantage of the horsepower you have. I can do things in Linux that are impossible on the same hardward running Windows. For example, just the other day I put Ubuntu on with compiz-fusion. I then enabled both monitors ( independently ). I have a laptop, core 2 duo, nvidia mobile quadro nvs140m. Nothing exotic.

I was running 5 tabs in firefox, playing a dvd, playing an mp3, ripping a dvd ( external usb ), running pidgin with AIM and YAHOO accounts, virtualbox running windows xp, and a few other windows were open. I then enabled the cube plugin, and 4 workspaces. I had different windows in each workspace. I rotated the cube, with live video playing on one face of the cube. Each face was a different workspace, rotating on the cube, and nothign stuttered or skipped. I was seriously blown away. I have "liked" linux for a long time but never felt it was a suitable replacement for Windows. This just blew me away, and made me realize how close it is getting to being the true windows alternative.

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