Why Windows 7 might go to pieces

Why Windows 7 might go to pieces

Summary: There are a growing number of clues that Windows 7 -- the next version of Windows about which Microsoft continues to remain mum -- could be available in pieces. By "pieces," I mean a couple of different things....


There are a growing number of clues that Windows 7 -- the next version of Windows about which Microsoft continues to remain mum -- could be available in pieces.

By "pieces," I mean a couple of different things:

1. Delivered in a role-based fashion, a la Windows Server.

Windows Server 2008 allows users to select which bits they want to install or ignore, based on a handful of predetermined "roles." Windows Server Core is the minimum configuration. Given that Windows client and server are built from the same code base, doesn't it make sense that the next version of client also will move to more of a roles-like system? Microsoft already allows OEMs to pick and choose among components using the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK). So why not allow customers to do the same?

A user-selectable, role-based Windows client could help Microsoft's marketing folks from having to make the kinds of SKU choices that got Microsoft in legal hot water with Windows Vista. It wouldn't be Microsoft deciding what constitutes "Windows-7-capable." Instead, users would choose how much (or little) of Windows 7 they want on their systems.

2. Divided into complementary Software+Services elements.

Again, Microsoft has been foreshadowing, to an extent, what it is planning here. With Windows Vista, Microsoft showed that it could update components of Vista (example: the Windows Photo Gallery) via a Windows Live service (Windows Live Photo Gallery). One of my sources close to Microsoft recently told me that "major parts are being removed from Windows 7 (mail, photo, video)" but still will be available as user-selectable services. This plan, if it comes to pass, ought to help lessen the Windows attack surface that has been the target of various Microsoft competitors and antitrust regulators who've been critical of Microsoft bundling everything but the kitchen sink into Windows.

To be clear: Microsoft hasn't confirmed any of these theories. And doubters may claim that the first, early test build of Windows 7 that made it into certain testers' hands seemingly didn't provide indications that turning Windows 7 into a bunch of disparate parts is Microsoft's game plan.

(Too bad the Technical Committee affiliated with the U.S. Department of Justice isn't talking; the TC recently took delivery of an early Windows 7 build in order to give it a first sweep for potential areas of legal concern....)

At the same time, however, it's important to note that my concepts of a componentized Windows 7 aren't coming out of the blue. Microsoft has been working since the early part of this decade to try to untangle Windows and reduce the dependencies of various Windows subsystems on one another. By doing this, the Windows team is trying to make Windows less complex to test, fix and update.

And we do know that Microsoft -- last we heard -- had managed to create "MinWin" -- a stripped-down verion of the Windows kernel, that it is planning to make the heart of Windows 7 and its successors. It would seem feasible that the Softies would be able to use MinWin as the base upon which it could allow users to "add back" services and subsystems of their choosing.

Would you be in favor of Microsoft providing Windows 7, due in 2010, in pieces: Either in the form of user-selectable roles and/or by decoupling some of the integrated features and making them optional add-on services?

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Confused

    I think you are confusing OS componentization (which was the point of MinWin) with productivity application packaging. These are two separate things.

    Delivering Windows 7's productivity apps as downloads for older versions of windows is something that has happened in every release of windows. It makes a lot of sense as there is advertising revenue in using the services behind these apps. In fact, it makes more sense now than any time before.

    Splitting windows out to subsystems which are less dependent on each other is part of MinWin. I see this as just good housekeeping and necessasary now that the server and client share the same kernel.
    • Server and client shared same kernel since NT 3.1

      Just a minor nitpick...

      "I see this as just good housekeeping and necessasary now that the server and client share the same kernel."

      All NT editions of the same version have shared the same kernel since the original release of NT 3.1. This includes NT 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, 4.0, and Windows 2000.

      The only exception is that there were no Server editions of NT 5.1 (XP); they upped it to 5.2 for Server 2003. They did make client versions of 5.2 -- XP 64-bit 2003 (Itanium) and XP x64 edition.

      With NT 6.0, they shipped the "SP0" version in client editions only (Vista), and with SP1 they have shipped server editions as well (Server 2008). Not sure what the plan will be with Win7.

      I agree with your overall premise though that MinWin is a necessary and good thing.
    • Pah!! They're just copying Linux

      Next thing you know, it might even run on more than just an x86.
  • UAC would be a good place to start for user selected

    While I think Vista is the worst OS MS has EVER made, I am looking forward to Windws 7.

    I think one thing that even if you turned off in Vista was UAC. Fortunately I upgraded to XP shortly after Vista - MUCH better performance on some pretty high end equipment with plenty of memory - too bad Vista slowed down a very nice system to a crawl.

    I'd hate to think in 2010 I'd prefer XP over Windows 7 so let's hope MS makes system performance the most important feature in Windows 7. An OS just lets me run software - if it doesn't run faster on old or new equipment - not much point in using a new OS. Hopefully MS is thinking how can we take advantage of the 64 bit core 2 processor so that our code runs faster. When they developed Vista they said - lets assume everyone has a quad core 4GHz system with 8Gigs of RAM and a 512MB video card - that should be enough so they can run wordpad at a reasonable speed.
    • Opting out of UAC is a VERY bad idea

      in the long run. What needs to happen is MS needs to fix it to make it less nagging, and fix it so that it works 100% of the time (I have seen instances in which it prompts you, then nothing happens afterwards). UAC (or some equivalent) is a necessary component of a secure system, and given MS's public lashings for their security woes they have every right (indeed, they have the responsibility) to make sure their systems remain as secure as possible.

      And I say all of this as a die hard Linux fan.
      Michael Kelly
    • boed i have one word for ya TweakUAC

      boed i have one word for ya TweakUAC. it's free and if you don't like uac just use this or learn to tweak it your self. turning it off breaks a lot of stuff. with this little tool you can have the securty it provides with no prompts.
      SO.CAL Guy
      • So.Cal Guy

        Thanks - I appreciate the info. Actually I'm completely done with Vista. Even with SP1 - it and all the tweaks I could find for speed it up, it still is crap compared to Vista IMHO. And YES, I've tested it on systems with between 2-4GIGS of RAM, 3 GHZ Core 2 processors, 512MB fast video cards and FAST hard drives with 32mb of ram - in the end even with all this super high end hardware, all the tweaks and SP1 with all the patches - Vista is SLOW compared to XP. I've run both XP and Vista on freshly formatted drives on identical systems - network copies, file copies, boot up, application loading - all pretty much favor XP - some by a very wide margin. While I have enjoyed upgrading my OS since DOS 4 all the way to XP (OK - I didn't like Windows ME much but I didn't hate it as much as I do Vista); Vista has to be the most unpleasant OS I've ever worked with from MS. I can accept that they produced another dud like Windows ME - but I REALLY dislike the way Ballmer ignores the issues and just says - yeah - Vista is great - we sold a lot of copies. No matter what the question is about a problem with Vista - that is his standard response!

        I reported the performance issues with Vista during beta testing and was told - that is a problem with my particular set up - no one else is reporting that - I CALL BS!! They knew about the issue but ignored it hoping fanboys would post that it runs fine on their system. I'm not anti MS - just antiVista (OK and anti Ballmer - didn't loathe Gates).

        The fall of the Roman Empire was due mainly to internal strife - Ballmer can singlehandedly bring down MS IMHO.
    • for the umpteenth time...

      I have a 3 year old hp a730n pavilion. It now has 2.5 Gb of RAM, a wireless G internet card, and a NVIDIA GeForce 7900GS (by eVGA). Vista runs GREAT. Much better than XP ever did, and the only difference in this system between when it was XP and now that it's Vista is the last half gig of RAM. And really, that was only added because it was a gift. It is much more stable than XP, much more tweakable, does a great deal more, and looks fantastic on my 22" HD monitor. I have a Macbook with Leopard. It also has Vista Ultimate in parallels. Vista Ultimate runs just as fast as Leopard does, even though Vista is using half as much RAM, and can only use 1 core of the dual core processor. SP1 made life even better. Now my machine is faster than it was with non service pack Vista, which was about as fast (if not faster) than my XP machine.

      I purposely TRY to get viruses on some of my computers, just to see what happens. The Vista machines have no viruses that any program I put on them can find. AVG, Avast!, NIS2008, and panda find nothing. Actually, NIS always finds a tracking cookie, but that's from Hp, so it's supposed to be there.

      I think if you had so many problems with Vista that you went back to XP, then you set your Vista machine up incorrectly. X-Wing runs just fine on Vista under DOS-BOX. All my xp programs are fine. My 1998 printer is fine, although my 2002 printer had problems the first month, before a new driver came out for it.

      I think your problems are your own.
      • Vista's middle name is problem

        We have 4 computers in the house now. One is an Apple Mac, another is a Dell Dimension 2400 running XP home edition, aa HP Pavilion a1473w running XP Media Edition, and a Compaq Presario SR 5250NX running Vista Home Edition. All of the machines are running with at least 1 GB of Ram. The Apple and the Hp are used by a teenage daughter. The Dell is used for some e-mail, some surfing, and some home financial and word processing.
        The compaq, for now, is used mostly for internet and e-mailing, basically because I don't trust it for anything real important yet. We've has the vista machine for about 4 months, and and are constantly experiencing video driver problems. The screen goes black at least 3 times a week, and I get a message the the driver has experienced a problem and quit working and reset itself. I've tried several of the fixes I've found and so far nothing has worked.
  • RE: Why Windows 7 might go to pieces

    You can turn off UAC completely or make Vista
    silently approve all UAC requests.

    See http://blogs.msdn.com/tims/archive/2006/09/20/763275.aspx
    • This is drivel

      I'm running Vista Business on $500 computers, most of which have 1GB of RAM and they run (with Aero) just fine.

      I'm writing this on a $500 2GB system, so the tired mantra of "Vista needs mega-expensive hardware" is simply a lie, and one those who post it *know* is a lie--unless they've never used Vista in which case they're just blowing hot air.
      • Whoops! Sorry!

        Should have been posted @ boed
        • You are absolutely CORRECT. Why bloggers would propagate

          a lie is beyond me. Vista screamers are in the 1200 to 1400 price range already. 500.00 units will run Vista just fine. <br><br>The price of high end hardware is dropping steadily and quickly. Already you would be hard pressed to find a machine that doesn't run Vista very well. <br><br>
          Sure the 5 year old machines are not going to cut it. We know that. But there has been the idea tha even new machines are not capable. If that were true a year ago, it is no longer and getting less so by the day. <br><br>
          A great friend of my wife and mine, who will be 80 this summer bought a 450.00 DELL at Walmart. It came wth 2GB of RAM and Vista basic, all he wanted. Runs Vista fast. Very very fast. Why are people saying otherwise? It's a lie. <br>
          A screen painting in smoothly is not slow, that is beautiful. The herky jerky nature of prior versions and other OSes is deceiving. They are in fact much slower to get most any job done. <br>
          And they are not capable of running almost unlimited applications such as with Vista, with no system issues. <br><br>
          If you think Leopard is better, you are going to pay 2899 for laptop that is less a machine than mine at 1400 and Leopard is still going to be slow. <br><br>
          When is that going to blogged on? How slow Leopard really is and how much you have to pay to get quality hardware to run it, compared to what other PC OEMs are offering right now. <br><br>
          I saw a blog on here about how Apple is now using the penryn core 2 duo. Yeah? So is HP and Dell and Toshiba. Where are those stories?
          Where is teh story on the HP MBP beaters for less than half the price?? Not en vogue to print the truth any longer?
          • Bully for you and the short term market effect

            but these machines all end up as landfill somewhere.
          • Bully for you and your short term landfill effect

            but not mentioning how fast much of the machines are becoming recyclable<br>
            The thing is it's all commodity hardware now no matter your OS and I suppose you are saying that a single working Mother who can only afford 400.00 bucks should not have access to a PC for her children to keep up with the rest of the class? <br><br>
            And what about ipods and iPhones and iTouches and Macs? They last forever? You think the lithium batteries are better for the landfills than a 400.00 Dell desktop's components? It's commodity hardware. It is the same equipment in my HP laptop. You are not aware of that? The only diffrence being design. <br><br>
            What a crock. Unless you are going to go on a campaign about all landfill items, then why would you single out PCs, whether they run Windows, Linux or OS X?
          • So by your logic

            a single working mother should only have access to unsupported hand-me-downs (earlier versions of Windows)?

            Consumer stuff is an environmental problem, and yes, there is SLOW progress being made, but the most important thing in this day and age is to get it out of the door with as much fanfare as possible and maximize profits. Taken to the n'th degree, we'll be at the last throes of the planet but at least the greed that caused the problem can say "well at least I was rich". How pathetic.

            The landfill mention is a poke at the backwardness of corporate America. Microsoft and Intel, left to their own devices, would have just had everyone upgrading to a more powerful machine as often as the market would bear - Intel selling more hardware, Microsoft filling the hardware with software bloat, to keep the cycle going.

            Another classic example was the car manufacturers, when questioned as to why they were still creating such a high percentage of gas guzzling monsters said is was what the consumer wanted. They ended up with unsold stock - which at least shows that some consumers are waking up.

            By observing a nation of people that can't even eat the right amount of food, the rest of the world can only avoid its mistakes, and ensure that it doesn't get its way telling the rest of the world how to live (GM food, war, resource wastage etc...)
          • Vista runs great on my old 486...

            NOT! :D

            (Dont flame me please... I just couldn't resist...)
          • It runs great in my wheelbarrow, too.....

            Straight to the trash dump.

            Better that than a truckload of
            hardware that it WON'T run on.

            Help save our planet! Keep our
            landfills clean. Trash Vista instead
            of your hardware.
            Ole Man
          • ... the long wait

            ...that actually reminds me: Vista on a M530 makes me wait for about as long as I did when I tried to run W95 on a x386 back in the day. Both run as fast as a snail!
      • Yeah, right!

        The majority of the population not
        only doesn't have a clue about
        computer use, they have now all
        turned into liars (except for a few
        ZDNet Microserfs, that is, NOT
        included in the majority).
        Ole Man