My Windows 7 wish list

My Windows 7 wish list

Summary: Cynics see the new Engineering Windows 7 blog, which launched last week, as a pure PR play from Microsoft. Maybe. But in a 2000-word post yesterday, Windows boos Steven Sinofsky provided some more details about the development effort, including some clues as to what to expect in Windows 7. In his post, Sinofsky lists the 25 main "feature teams" working on the next version of Windows. I've rearranged that list into nine groups and outlined what I think are the main challenges facing each one.


Cynics see the new Engineering Windows 7 blog, which launched last week, as a pure PR play from Microsoft. Maybe it's just a matter of setting expectations properly. In a lengthy post (more than 2,100 words!) yesterday, Steven Sinofsky provided some more details about the development effort, including some clues as to what to expect in Windows 7. He also touches on the feedback to the first post (288 comments posted in the first four days).

There's a fair amount of information in this post, all of it from 30,000 feet or so. Most interesting to me was the breakdown of how the sprawling Windows development effort is divided into 25 feature teams:

A feature team represents those that own a specific part of Windows 7—the code, features, quality, and overall development. The feature teams represent the locus of work and coordination across the team. …

Windows 7’s feature teams sound a lot like parts of Windows with which you are familiar. Because of the platform elements of Windows we have many teams that have remained fairly constant over several releases, whereas some teams are brand new or represent relatively new areas composed of some new code and the code that formed the basis of the team. Some teams do lots of work for Server (such as the VM work) and some might have big deliverables outside of Windows 7 (such as Internet Explorer).

In general a feature team encompasses ownership of combination of architectural components and scenarios across Windows. “Feature” is always a tricky word since some folks think of feature as one element in the user-interface and others think of the feature as a traditional architectural component (say TCP/IP). Our approach is to balance across scenarios and architecture such that we have the right level of end-to-end coverage and the right parts of the architecture. One thing we do try to avoid is separating the “plumbing” from the “user interface” so that teams do have end-to-end ownership of work (as an example of that, “Find and Organize” builds both the indexer and the user interface for search).

Sinofsky’s list is alphabetical. I thought it might be interesting to arrange the feature teams into groups and discuss what I believe the real challenges of each group are. It’s important to remember that this development team is working on business, consumer, and server products, all of which will be built on the Windows 7 code base.


Feature teams: Fundamentals; Kernel & VM; Security

Don’t be distracted by predictions that Windows 7 will have a new kernel. It’s going to be an evolution of the kernel shared by Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008. I’ll be especially interested to see whether some form of the Hyper-V virtualization platform appears in Windows 7. If it does, I expect it will be in the enterprise version. The security challenges for Windows 7 are well known as well: refining User Account Control and hardening the kernel against new forms of attack.


Feature teams: Deployment and Component Platform; Engineering System and Tools; Customer Engineering and Telemetry; Assistance and Support Technologies; International

Some of the most interesting advances in Windows Vista are here, in the new servicing stack and a massive change to the way system images are built and deployed. If you’re a consumer, you probably aren’t aware of these changes, but enterprise customers sure are. It would be nice to see these technologies leveraged so that any Windows user can build and save a custom image that includes only the features and updates they need, without having to use third-party tools.


Feature teams: Devices and Media; Devices and Storage

The driver model for Windows 7 will essentially be identical to the one used in Windows Vista. That should mean the biggest headaches of the Vista launch, where immature drivers caused performance and stability problems, will not be repeated. We’ve probably already seen a preview of the handful of new features that will appear; see the Storage 1.0 feature pack for details. I don’t expect any other major changes here.


Feature teams: Core User Experience; Desktop Graphics; Applets and Gadgets

You can sum up this group’s mission in two words: fit and finish. I can already see the reviews, which will compare the Windows 7 UI and its included tools with their Apple alternatives, such as iLife and MobileMe. Microsoft has been doing some exceptional UI innovation post-Vista, with its Zune software and its Windows Live tools, especially the Photo Gallery update. Tying that all together to create a consistent end-to-end experience is essential. This group has had two full years to address the usability complaints with Windows Vista, so there really is no room for excuses. I’ll be especially interested to see how Live Mesh and other cloud-based services fit into the picture.


Feature teams: Documents and Printing; File System; Find and Organize

Several commenters on that initial “Welcome” post expressed hope that the WinFS file system, which was killed off during the infamous “Longhorn reset,” would be resurrected for Windows 7. Not gonna happen. Nor, frankly, is it necessary. One frustrating aspect of Windows Vista is the disconnect between its Windows Search architecture (excellent) and its search tools (weak). This is another area where reviewers are going to compare a Windows 7 feature to its Apple counterpart, Spotlight. Being able to win that comparison is essential.


Feature teams: Networking – Core; Networking – Enterprise; Networking - Wireless

This group has a lot of work to do, both at the plumbing level and at the User Experience level. Making the Network and Sharing Center more accessible is what reviewers will focus on, but it’s equally important to iron out the remaining glitches in network performance (especially those that slow down file transfers while multimedia components are in operation).


Feature teams: User Interface Platform; Windows App Platform

Because I’m not a developer, I haven’t been paying much attention to this space lately. So, I’ll throw this category open to my dev-centric readers. What do you expect to see here?


Feature team: Internet Explorer (including IE 8 down-level)

Internet Explorer 8 is just about ready to go into a second beta and is probably feature-complete at this point. Although it’s integrated into the operating system, its development effort follows a parallel track and it should be done well before the rest of the OS is ready to ship. The biggest challenge for the IE group is to erase the perception that Microsoft’s browser is fundamentally less secure than its competitors. Tightening up the ActiveX security model should go a long way in that respect. I’ll have much more to say about IE8 when the next milestone release is available.


Feature team: Media Center

The Media Center team owns one of the highest-profile consumer features in the product. Their challenge is walking the tightrope between satisfying the demands of a passionate and vocal enthusiast community and building a set of platform components that are stable enough to work like an appliance. As the controversy over the recent Media Center TV Feature Pack (previously codenamed “Fiji”) attests, there’s still plenty of work to do here.

Did I miss anything? Hit the Talkback button and let me know.

Topics: CXO, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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  • Put more muscle in there

    When you pay 100+ bucks, you'd expect it's loaded with more than just Notepad or Paint. Those two haven't had much major upgrade since Windows 3.0. If you want some themes, you shouldn't have to pay another 40 or so to get a Windows Plus!. Also they say there's gonna be a deep tie with Windows Live, well better jack it up with SilverLight. I have no interest in these typical HTML/AJAX based social web site such as Facebook, MySpace, iGoogle and so on. They are dull and unattractive despite these "Web 2.0" weasel words they label themselves with.

    And don't forget the cannoli, I mean security. Keep on the good work started from Vista.
    • And then Microsoft gets sued again...

      ...for "bundling".
      • Only if they don't allow an uninstall... (NT)

  • RE: My Windows 7 wish list

    I'd like to see rules on Folders that could be set and not be violated such as extension include/exclude lists, file name case, Charachter include/exclude lists. It might help eliminate viruses and lead to personal/corporate standards.
    • RE: My Windows 7 wish list

      Very interesting suggestion. I would love to see that, especially integrated into Group Policy. I can see this being important for the Enterprise/Ultimate versions, but don't clutter the experience for mom and pop in Home ediion. Maybe include it, but only make it available with a Local Policy change?
    • Juar as long as I can turn if off...

      I don't care how much you mouse trap yourself and your company machines.

      Rule 1) Keep it simple stupid! is a good rule to live by.
    • Cool idea!

      That's a great idea!
      I am Gorby
  • Their key to success

    I hate to do the monkey-boy routine, but it's all about getting the developers on board. That will fix the UAC issues, that will put ActiveX to out to pasture, that will eliminate the driver issues that slow Vista down (there are not that many anymore, but let's keep it that way for Win7), and that will turn features like Aero into "features" and not just eye candy.
    Michael Kelly
    • I don't think MS wants 3rd party developers anymore

      It seems to me that as soon as a third party develops something new, Microsoft buys the company, or copies the product, and adds that to their own offerings.

      I don't think Microsoft want the end users to write their own software. They want them to purchase more Microsoft software.
      I am Gorby
      • Not true

        Have you heard of the Microsoft Developer Network?
        Do not forget what company made computer programming accessible, AND possible, to regular folks (starting with Visual Basic back in the early '90s). In addition, how about the free versions of the best PC development tools like Visual Studio Express? (Remember, everything "Express" is for free, not trial versions, no strings attached; for example you can get SQL Server Express, for free, if you want something as powerful and versatile as MySQL). Just suspend belief, download and experiment.
  • RE: My Windows 7 wish list

    Check out my wish list..
  • My wish list?

    HOw about true plug and play networking? Of all things, this is one thing that makes me pull out my hair. AFter all these years, we should have basic plug and play networking.

    Of course, knowing MS they'll only do it between Win7 computers, not say Win7, and Win2k systems or such.

    - Kc
    • ..basic plug and play networking..

      Pray tell, what exactly is "basic plug and play networking". Can you define it susinctly for all environments?

      Corporate domain mixed environment (windows/linux/mac)
      Corporate domain Windows only environment
      Corporate workground mixed environment
      Corporate workground Windows only environment

      Now all the same as above but for the home.

      I'd be interested to see what you come up with because that's a very complex set of scenarios that you want to "just work" by "plugging in".

      How would you implement it? What would the requirements be so that they don't all conflict, and yet provide the necessary security for the various environments?

      Please, I'm really interested in how it would work so expand, describe, detail!
    • they'll only do it between Win7 computers,

      I expect them to stop supporting W2K any time now. They would need to do a major patch to XP and Vista to make this work.

      Maybe they could make it work for new MS products...maybe.
    • RE: My wish list?

      It already is plug and play. Set up a router. Plug your computers into it. Your router's DHCP will automatically configure your settings and you have plug and play.

      What did suck was when you had XP home computers using the workgroup "MSHOME" and Vista/ XPPro computers using workgroup "WORKGROUP" in the same network. You could still look up each computer by its IP address. What I would like to see next is see routers with a DNS service built in. That will allow each computer to get its own name and not rely on NETBIOS to browse the computers in the local network.
  • My wish list?

    Don't release it until it:

    a) Works.
    b) Offers a compelling proposition.

    That's it.
    Sleeper Service
    • That is it except for ...

      cleaning up the UI. While a teenager might love bling on the desktop in a clean business environment it's unneeded overhead. Allowing for configuring a simple, hierarchical UI as in Win2000 or XP and not scrambling all the management controls menu locations would be much appreciaetd. Ignore your human factors folks and ask real business users what they want. Choices are good. Continuity is good.
  • Biz and personal

    I'd like to see the 'clipping tool' become something awesome. This would help businesses in so many ways who need to make presentations, training material and plenty of other uses. If they could integrate video into it and fine-tune the interface, that would be great. Hypersnap, SnagIt and all the others are still lacking... Yes, I know that's a weird one but it would be used everywhere.

    Make IE faster, standards compliant and re-installable (is that a word?) for fixing issues that it causes. I've got one computer where one user cannot run any kind of javascript, and one computer where one user cannot access flash that is called through javascript. Oddly enough, both computers other users are fine... Anyway, did I mention that IE has to be faster? Yeah, FF and Safari are leaving IE in the dust.

    More keyboard shortcuts or even programmable keyboard shortcuts (besides just the quicklaunch which, although nice, I'd like more).

    Make mail easier to use and make it WORK with Yahoo!

    Continue to improve Live Photo Gallery. It is an awesome app, but should continue to be improved.

    Make the task bar a little more organized. Make resources pop up in a floating window (like Live Mesh) instead of sliding to reveal hidden ones. Also, open apps look horrible with large quick launch icons.

    Windows Explorer: make the Preview Pane BETTER (the one copy-cat thing Apple did that was actually better) and stop issues like file locking when you're viewing it. Make the buttons optional so you can integrate them into your buttons bar (or whatever it's called), so I don't have to go through 3 - 4 steps to turn preview pane on/off, tabbed interface for multiple instances... and... once again, keyboard shortcuts.

    Choose one. Zune or WMP. Both are good, but why should there be two?

    Use WPF for your own applications for goodness sakes!!

    Fine tune Live Mesh so you can sync calendar with it and other devices like iPhones (I realize that's probably a stretch, but I have an iPhone and it would be great to have).

    I've got plenty of others, but you've probably stopped reading by now...
    • Reset IE

      I had a problem with IE7 crashing after I uninstalled IE8 Beta 1. If you go into the Internet Settings and look under 'Advance' you'll find a reset function that seems to be nearly as effective as a traditional reinstall. That might fix your bizarre IE issues.
      • Tried it

        Believe me, I've tried that, I've tried everything! For some reason it just doesn't work (at least on my two machines).