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What to Expect From Windows 7

With Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference just days away, so is the arrival of Windows 7. The pre-release test release of Microsoft's next version of Windows, will undoubtedly be the most sought-after item in the goodie bag of freebies that attendees will receive on checking in to the show.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will not discuss its planned schedule, but it looks like Windows 7 will get its biggest moment in the sun on Tuesday, October 28. The show opens on Monday the 27th with Bob Muglia, head of the server and tools division, set to join Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie during the keynote.

Day two will feature Ozzie and Steve Sinofsky, who is heading the Windows 7 development team. That would be the ideal time to discuss what's in Windows 7, what Microsoft is looking for from developers, and perhaps even a release date.

Windows 7 isn't a huge departure for Microsoft. It's built on the Vista kernel and device driver, so existing device drivers will work on it. Thus far, through their numerous blog posts, the Windows 7 team has given away this much: Windows 7 will focus on performance, since Service Pack 1 for Vista didn't really help in that department.

It will add support for multitouch technology, similar to that found in Microsoft's Surface tabletop computer, as well as support for solid state drives and using GPUs for general purpose applications. The "ribbon" interface in Office 2007 will find its way into many Windows applications. Windows 7 also introduces a new networking API with support for building SOAP-based Web services in native code.

The hated User Access Control (UAC) systems will be overhauled to make it a lot smarter. It couldn't get much dumber, really. Microsoft estimates it will go from 775,000 unrecognized applications to 168,000 applications, so it will stop asking you for approval every time you make a move.

Microsoft has been fairly up front in communicating about its Windows 7 plans through regular, detailed Windows 7 blog updates. Mike Cherry, analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said he's surprised, because Sinofsky was known for running silent during the development cycle of Office, his previous project.

"This is more information than he would normally let out," Cherry told InternetNews.com. "He realizes that on an operating system, developers need more advanced time than they do with an application. If he had his own choice he'd release even less than this."

That said, Sinofsky has shaken things up internally, according to Paul Thurrott, who runs the SuperSite for Windows site. "His style of management is what they need right now. There are no sacred cows in the Windows organization any more. There were some guys there who were walking around on air thinking they were untouchable and got their comeuppance," he said.

No reviews please, we're early code

Thurrott said one major change Sinofsky introduced is how the OS is being assembled. In the past, Microsoft would have all of the pieces under development, and a build would mean one component might be in a very early, crude state, while another piece might be in a near-complete state.

"With Windows 7, it's not in the build unless it's done, and code has to meet a much higher-quality barrier than in the past," he said. "So the things that are not complete or buggy are developed outside the main product. Many people from Microsoft have told me, 'You're going to be surprised by the fit and finish -- it will be high-quality.'"

That's good, because the poor reviews of the early betas of Vista crippled its perception out of the starting gate. Whatever challenges an OS might have, it doesn't need negative perception formed before it's released.

"In general it's a double-edged sword. On one hand, you're excited people want to work with your latest technology and give you feedback. On the other hand, any impressions formed early on, if they are negative, are hard to reset later in the process," Cherry said.

Next page: Testing Windows 7