If last week was all about the eye candy coming in Windows 7, this week is more about the less glitzy but core improvements Microsoft is making to its next-generation client operating system.
At the November 5 kick-off keynote at its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Los Angeles, Microsoft executives talked up some of the changes Microsoft is making to Windows 7 to improve its reliability, battery life, standards support and other fundamental components compared to what's available with Vista.
Jon DeVaan, the Senior Vice President in charge of Microsoft's Core Operating System Division (COSD) , wasn't shy about acknowledging some of the complaints users have had with Vista before, during and after that product launched.
DeVaan told WinHEC attendees that Microsoft is committed to delivering "reliable builds" of Windows 7 "so that when we say we're going to ship Windows 7, you'll believe us."
(As many may recall, because of the delays and the "Longhorn Reset," many OEMs, market watchers and others didn't believe Microsoft was ready to release Vista to manufacturing almost right up until the day it did so in November 2006.)
Microsoft is providing WinHEC attendees with the same "M3" (Milestone 3) pre-beta build that it gave to attendees of the Professional Developer Conference (PDC) last week.
This build dates back to September 2008. Microsoft is expecting to deliver a public beta of Windows 7 by early 2009, officials have said. (I am still hearing mid-December is the likely delivery date for this Beta.) Microsoft continues to hold fast to its "early 2010" final delivery date, though I am still hearing next year -- maybe even by mid-year -- is the real target.)
As was true last week, DeVaan and other Microsoft execs aren't yet providing even rough guidance as to how much faster Windows 7 ultimately will boot up, shut down, etc. (Earlier this year, Microsoft execs hinted that Windows 7 might boot up in under 15 seconds, but didn't officially commit to that number.)
DeVaan talked up improvements that Microsoft is making to "fundamental scenarios" with Windows 7. He called out Microsoft's goals of improving startup/boot time with 7 and showed a "boot drag race" video to show how Windows 7, even in pre-beta form, already starts up seconds faster than Vista. He said Microsoft has tweaked Windows 7 so that device drivers are loaded in parallel, instead of serially, and has reduced the number of services that load at startup to achieve these improvements. He also said Microsoft has fine-tuned 7 to reduce memory consumption, noting that video cards will be managing their own memory, rather than relying on the Windows 7 system memory management.
For laptop users, concerned with battery life, Microsoft has worked on Windows 7's kernel, tweaking the system clock, so that the CPU will be able to get to idle and stay idle longer, according to DeVaan.
Steven Sinofsky, Senior Vice President of Windows and Windows Live Engineering -- who headlined the Windows 7 debut at the PDC last week -- talked through 21 demos of Windows 7, highlighting everything from its touch support, to its ability to interact directly with sensors using a new Sensor software development kit.
Sinofsky showed off the Device Stage feature of Windows 7, which is aimed at making it easier for users to interact with the various peripherals and devices connected to their PCs. He highlighted the impmrovements Microsoft is making to Home Group/home networking support. And Sinofsky spent a considerable amount of his keynote demonstrating that a full implementation of Windows 7 will be able to run on netbook, even as stripped down as an Asus Eee PC with 1 GB of RAM.
Sinofsky also talked up the Media Center functionality that will be part of Windows 7, noting that Microsoft is planning to touch-enable the Media Center UI, roll in the TV Pack ("Fiji") functionality and improve boot time to make Media Center PCs more like a typical living-room appliance, in terms of startup-time expectations.
Microsoft is Webcasting the WinHEC keynotes on its Web site. Tomorrow will be all about Windows Server, and specifically Windows Server 2008 R2 (Windows 7 Server).