If I were to design Windows 7

If I were to design Windows 7

Summary: My colleague and fellow ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley continues to polish her crystal ball about Windows 7's delivery date in her last Friday's column, based on interpreting new statements from Microsoft chairman Bill Gates as well as the party line about the already stated 3-year release cycle.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Windows
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Conceptual Mockup: Windows 7 with Seamless XP VirtualizationMy colleague and fellow ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley continues to polish her crystal ball about Windows 7's delivery date in her last Friday's column, based on interpreting new statements from Microsoft chairman Bill Gates as well as the party line about the already stated 3-year release cycle. I've always found Mary Jo to be very prescient about such matters as applying to release timing for Microsoft products, so I will defer to her experience that it is likely we are going to see a new Windows version sometimes between 2009 and early 2010. What this implies for me is that Microsoft is already reconsidering whether or not Vista deserves an early death. This is not surprising, as all factors point it to being a dud in the overall consumer and corporate market compared to Windows releases past. In a previous piece, I've already said that if Microsoft wants to reap immediate benefits from its development of 2008 Server, that they should release a Workstation version of it. Embracing such a strategy would only take them six months, at worst, to make the necessary changes and "Crash the schedule" on packaging and marketing efforts to produce the worthy heir to Windows XP.

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So I think based on Bill Gates' comments, it is very likely that Windows 7 is in fact a new rev of Windows based on the newly released Server 2008 and Vista SP1 code base. The fact that Gates says it will take them a year, not six months, leads me to believe there is additional functionality being added that is going to require a year or year and a half's worth of development time. Well, we know that Internet Explorer 8 is in the Alpha stages right now, and a year seems about right for it to make it into a future product. So it would seem that a Server 2008 core on Internet Explorer 8 steroids, themed out with Vista's multimedia bells and whistles, such as built in Silverlight with an enhanced Media player and more driver support would make the basis for Windows 7. Pack it up, toss in a hundred million dollars worth of print and television advertising, and it's done.

Still, one of the major complaints against Vista aside from the lack of drivers and its significantly higher hardware requirements is its Windows XP compatibility -- it doesn't always run legacy applications predictably. One could say this is one of the primary things keeping it off the corporate desktop, as XP apps still reign the roost. But what if Windows 7 had perfect Windows XP compatibility?

How would one achieve that? Well, the tools are already in Microsoft's stable, in the guise of their Hyper-V hypervisor for Server 2008 that recently went into Release Candidate 1 status. What if Microsoft were to build a "Personal" Hyper-V into the Windows 7 client?

I've already been told that Hyper-V will not be ported to Vista, by Microsoft's virtualization team lead at Microsoft, Jeff Woolsey. In his words - "Sorry, that's not going to happen.We've done all of our development of Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008 to meet the top customer demands: server consolidation, high availability, business continuity and disaster recovery." But there are already rumors abound that some sort of virtualization layer for XP compatibility may make it into the next version of Windows.

How would I architect it? Well, instead of giving an end-user Hyper-V as it currently stands, I would take the current hypervisor and adapt it so that it would permit operation of the privileged Windows "Domain 0" OS on ACPI-compliant systems. Currently, Hyper-V isn't designed to work well on laptops and systems that go into suspend mode, so ACPI functionality is disabled. For an enterprise server that's no big deal, but it would create problems for a lot of end users if you had a desktop OS that made heavy use of virtualization.

In addition to making Hyper-V more desktop hardware friendly, I would make XP applications run out-of-the box without any additional software instead of putting the onus on the end-user to install a licensed copy of XP on the system, a la VMWare Workstation or Microsoft Virtual Server. All Microsoft needs to do is include a stripped-down XP virtualized subsystem that contains all the core Windows XP SP3 libraries and a fully Para-virtualized XP kernel, so that it will run on 32-bit systems as well as 64-bit Intel VT-accelerated and AMD-V enabled systems, with a "Seamless" way to present XP applications, perhaps via a internal RDP interface or a DirectX accelerated virtual video driver, without having to run a complete XP desktop.

Such a "Seamless" Windows approach existed in IBM's OS/2 operating system, which allowed 16-bit Windows 3.1 apps to run on OS/2's 32-bit Presentation Manager and Workplace Shell. It also exists in Sun's free VirtualBox desktop virtualization software for Linux, Unix and Windows. Microsoft itself pursued a similar "Windows on Windows" strategy, back in the NT 3.x days, without having the benefits of modern virtualization technology.

Combine this with a user-friendly way to install the apps in the virtualized XP environment in the "Add/Remove Programs" manifest and a Control Panel dialog box to tweak the memory allocation and storage for the Virtual XP, as well as a way to quickly autostart it on system boot-up and to quiesce it on demand, then I think we have a better way to transition to the new OS and many end-user concerns about having to buy all new applications and regression test their old ones on Vista's compatibility mode may be alleviated. Enterprises and End-users could run native Vista/Win 7 applications side by side with XP and older apps without fear of munging DLLs or breaking compatibility. IE 8 could run alongside IE 7 and even IE 6 for those environments that required it, as well as any specific XP patches and hotfixes or special modifications that a customized application might require.

If Microsoft wanted to take this to yet another level, they could have the virtual XP subsystem have the ability to launch multiple copies of itself, or create virtual "containers" so that a shared virtual XP kernel could partition itself into multiple logical environments with separate registries and application settings. Windows can already do this today with Parallels' Virtuozzo software - Microsoft could license the Parallels kernel modifications and APIs and build those changes into the Paravirtualized XP.

Is the future for the next Windows client a virtualized one? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Microsoft, Windows

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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157 comments
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  • I license OS X from Apple and dump Vista...

    How could a company put so much money and so much time into an effort and come up with something so lame and mediocre? There?s only one company that really knows how to design operating systems, and it isn?t Microsoft. To prove my point, who is always copying who, and very poorly no less?
    gtdworak
    • You give Apple way too much credit.

      Apple's OS is simply Unix with a GUI. Apple is a bigger stealer of other's ideas than MS.
      bjbrock
      • Yes...

        You do give Apple too much credit (for the stealing things).
        zkiwi
      • Yes, but Apple makes it pretty

        Sure they don't come up with new ideas, but they make them look good.

        That's like picking your wife for her looks or for her ability to not drain your bank account. Which would you pick?
        nucrash
        • Incomplete analogy

          Here's the better analogy. One wife burns the dinner
          routinely. She breaks dishes. Wrecks the car, soils the
          laundry, and constantly breaks things in the house. She's
          also not very pretty and whine alot about how she can't do
          things. When you complain to her she says it's your fault
          for not having a good enough kitchen, car, dishwasher,
          house or clothes. She then also says that All the other
          nerds in the neighborhood like to use her, so you should
          just shut up and be grateful for what you have, or she'll
          pull out the prenup.

          The second wife is sexy, an awesome cook and give great
          foot rubs. But you gotta have a pretty nice house to attract
          her.

          I know which one I'd take.
          frgough
          • I disagree

            [i]Here's the better analogy. One wife burns the dinner routinely. She breaks dishes. Wrecks the car, soils the laundry, and constantly breaks things in the house. She's also not very pretty and whine alot about how she can't do things. When you complain to her she says it's your fault for not having a good enough kitchen, car, dishwasher, house or clothes. She then also says that All the other nerds in the neighborhood like to use her, so you should just shut up and be grateful for what you have, or she'll pull out the prenup.[/i]

            Oh come on, OS X isn't THAT bad.
            NonZealot
          • LOL [nt]

            :D
            JT82
          • I agree

            Somehow, despite my using WinXP SP2, I'm managing to conduct business on line with no problems, while using Adobe CS, Office 2007, Expressions Web 2 beta, Windows Media Player 11, and Flash, and I'm making an uninterrupted living.

            So, tell me again why the MS OS is no good.
            professordnm
          • Interesting...

            Just because you are not having problems, no one else is?
            From what I have read, and heard, Vista is a flop. Yes, I have
            used it (not at any great length) but it did not have me
            wanting to leave the OS I use at this time.
            cashaww
          • ?

            Just how meny of you are having sex with your OS. Me I go for flesh and blood, I plug in to a woman not a CPU.
            Par-Pro
          • Here is my analogy

            OS X girl thinks she is hot because she's just had her metal braces replaced with clear ones. She hangs around all the popular girls all day and wants to be just like them although if you were to ask any of the popular girls what they thought of OS X girl, they wouldn't know who you were talking about. OS X girl knows this and when she gets home at night, writes Facebook posts about how much she hates all the popular girls and wishes they would die. The next morning, she will go into the principal's office and make up a story about how one of the popular girls stole her purse. At lunch though, she will be sitting at the table next to the popular girls laughing at all their stupid jokes.

            OS X girl gets either really high marks on her assignments if her parents did it for her, or really bad marks if her parents were busy and she had to do it herself.

            OS X girl prides herself on never having gotten an STD unlike some of the popular girls although this is mostly because none of the boys want anything to do with her. She did convince one of the chess club members to make out with her after school one day and immediately got mono although she tells herself that mono doesn't really count as a disease because it doesn't affect your genitals.

            She drives an Acura CSX and sticks her nose up at all those tacky Civic drivers, ignoring the fact that she basically paid Honda $10,000 to put an Acura logo on her Civic.

            Windows girl, however, doesn't exist because they are all so different. There are the promiscuous Windows girls who get the disease of the week from the jock of the week but most Windows girls are either waiting for marriage or practice safe sex and are always perfectly healthy.

            Some Windows girls drive muscle cars because they like to go fast, some drive their daddy's BMW, some drive a used Civic, it really depends on their circumstances although all of them make it to school on time.

            When working in groups, they tend to get top marks although they are more than willing to take ideas from the girls in the debate club when it will get them even higher marks. All of this will help them get into the top universities and have really successful careers, if that is what they decide to do. They'll probably be really polite to OS X girl as she is cleaning their house although they probably still won't know her name.
            NonZealot
          • hilariously well done

            nt
            Paul Fletcher
          • daaaaaaaaaaang....

            I like it!
            rjohn05
          • Brilliant analogy!

            Save a copy for posterity, don't let a gem like this get lost in another random zdnet deletion.
            rtk
          • If all else fails

            If all else fails, you have a career as a copywriter. You're good. Damned good.
            professordnm
          • Spot on!

            Doesn't get more accurate than that!
            eMJayy
          • Wow!

            Not bad. I think you very cleverly described why most of the world still prefers Windows-it runs on a vast array of hardware. Of course that's one of the reasons it can get a bad rap. Slovely administered Windows on a poorly conceived platform with uninformed users yields nothing but serious problems, as you also pointed out.

            Nice!
            djchandler
          • Here is my analogy!!

            In the meantime, here comes the Linux boy, f***s all the Windows girls, pisses on the OS X girls' Acura, gets into his Porche and goes home, for a beer and listen to ogg and flac music files on his RockBox operated iPod.
            kordoniss@...
          • more like

            In the meantime, Linux boy searches for the exact right unintelligible command he needs just to start his car. Windows girl turns her key, OS X uses pushes the single button she's got, while Linux boy attempts to explain why he needs to enter a 40 key sequence and how it's somehow superior to the other solutions.
            rtk
          • Message has been deleted.

            ~rpb~