Microsoft is known to be well on its way in planning Windows 7, the next version of Windows client slated to ship in 2010. Up until now, however, there has been next-to-no leakage on features or functionality planned for that release.
On November 6, blogger Stephen Chapman helped break the silence. Chapman posted a list of some of the planned investment areas that will allegedly be part of Windows 7. While none of the elements on the list is earth-shattering -- most are just evolutions of the "pillars" that Microsoft delivered with Windows Vista -- there are a couple of new features to put on your Windows-watching radar screens: StrongBox and Component Delivery Platform.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft won't confirm or deny whether the Windows 7 list on Chapman's site is correct. A corporate spokeswoman sent the following response via email:
"As a company, we're always exploring new ways to innovate Windows, using customer feedback as a guide. We have no new information to share on future versions of the operating system at this time."
But given Chapman's past track record when it comes to unearthing all kinds of confidential Microsoft info, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say what he has posted is most likely based on real Microsoft information/documentation.
Here's what stood out for me on the list:
"Component Delivery Platform: Also known as CBS, this is the core infrastructure utilized for defining Windows SKUs, optional components and for the setup and servicing of Windows. The current plan of the CBS team for Windows 7 is to provide aggregation, installation, and servicing constructs for Windows elements (components, drivers, etc.), including a set of interfaces that can be used by internal and external customers for a wide variety of operations ranging from SKU construction to install, uninstall and servicing of Windows features. This infrastructure will be leveraged by Windows partners to build their features and optional components for Windows 7.
"StrongBox: One of the biggest challenges is the impact of all the different kinds of applications on each other and the Windows platform itself. The results are growing frustration with desktop applications, higher cost of ownership, and customers’ apathy to try new applications. Microsoft has assembled a small team in the Core of the Windows Division whose primary task is to gain control of this problem and, over a series of releases, begin to alleviate it. The evolution of the application platform - deployment, configuration, state management, and servicing - all fall under this team’s focus. (Internal Only Link: http://team/sites/StrongBox/default.aspx)"
I asked Chapman whether he thought the Component Delivery Platform might be the same as MinWin, the componentized Windows core upon which Windows 7 is expected to be built. He said the component platform is not MinWin.
"The component delivery platform is something complete different. From the end-user's perspective, it's basically when you enter a key and that key tells (Windows) which version (or SKU) to install. From an OEM perspective, they leverage the CDP to add their components into an install, such as Dell adding in drivers onto an install of Vista that you get on a Dell DVD if you buy one of their computers."
And what about StrongBox? Is it just BitLocker on steroids? Chapman said it could be BitLocker 2, but also could include more encryption/security functionality outside of what BitLocker delivers in Vista.
Given how early it is in the Windows 7 development process, I'm expecting there will be lots more new features (maybe as many as 300!) to come before the release goes gold. If there isn't, this list sure makes Windows 7 seem like a very minor upgrade to Vista.
(Windows Future Investment Areas. Image from January 2007 from UXEvangelist.)