The incredibly tight veil of secrecy around Windows 7 is about to lift, at least a little.
After months of information lockdown, Microsoft is ready to begin talking about the next version of Windows. The first bits of information come from the very top, with a new blog that was unveiled today on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). Given the location, it’s not surprising that its name is Engineering Windows 7 and that its focus will be on “the overall engineering aspects of building Windows 7.”
What is surprising is who is slated to host (and write) the new blog, which is due to remain up and running until Windows 7 ships. The co-authors are the Microsoft Senior VPs in charge of Windows 7: Steven Sinofsky, who runs the Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, and Jon DeVaan, who’s in charge of the Windows Core Operating System Division. Their first post offers an explanation for the silence so far:
In leading up to this blog we have seen a lot of discussion in blogs about what Microsoft might be trying to accomplish by maintaining a little bit more control over the communication around Windows 7 (some might say that this is a significant understatement). We, as a team, definitely learned some lessons about “disclosure” and how we can all too easily get ahead of ourselves in talking about features before our understanding of them is solid. Our intent with Windows 7 and the pre-release communication is to make sure that we have a reasonable degree of confidence in what we talk about when we do talk. Again, top of mind for us is the responsibility we feel to make sure we are not stressing priorities, churning resource allocations, or causing strategic confusion among the tens of thousands of partners and customers who care deeply and have much invested in the evolution of Windows.
That's a pretty healthy helping of Microsopeak: I think "churning resource allocations" means something like "spinning our wheels," but I have to confess it's a new one for me. But there's no doubt what "make sure that we have a reasonable degree of confidence in what we talk about when we do talk" means.
Related to disclosure is the idea of how we make sure not to set expectations around the release that end up disappointing you—features that don’t make it, claims that don’t stick, or support we don’t provide. Starting from the first days of developing Windows 7, we have committed as a team to “promise and deliver”. That’s our goal—share with you what we’re going to get done, why we’re doing it, and deliver it with high quality and on time.
Oh, and comments are open, too. Those should be fun reading.
Sinofsky took over the Windows development effort nearly two and a half years ago, as Windows Vista was lurching to the finish line. Since then, he’s been tight-lipped (with the noteworthy exception of an interview with Ina Fried of CNET News back in May); instead, as that last paragraph emphasizes, he's been focused on the internal work of engineering Windows 7 so that it’s the anti-Vista: on time, feature complete, and stable. The fact that he’s willing to speak now (and promise to post "regularly" means, I suspect, that Windows 7 is about to hit a major milestone. The other announcement in that kickoff post confirms that this is the opening salvo in a publicity campaign that we’ll hear much more about this fall, beginning at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, to be held in Los Angeles October 26-30, and the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, scheduled for the following week. (I've got my tickets and reservations for PDC already and might stick around for WinHEC as well.)
I wrote about the four Windows 7 sessions scheduled for PDC back in May. Since then, the number of listings on the PDC conference agenda page has doubled, but there’s been nothing new on the Windows 7 front. That should change soon, now that the boss is starting to speak out. Still, I expect mostly hints and small bits of technical detail in the run-up to PDC, where some lucky Softie is going to give one of the most closely watched demos in software history.Having covered the tortured path that "Longhorn" took on its way to becoming Windows Vista, I have to say this feels completely different. I fully expect to see the first public release of Windows 7 code shortly after PDC (if not at the show itself) and am anticipating a blizzard of activity as the New Year begins.
Update: Don't miss Mary Jo Foley's counterpoint: Sinofsky to dish on Windows 7? Wishful thinking.