Microsoft isn't sharing specifics, but according to new information on its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) blog, the company is definitely planning to distribute in late October a pre-beta build of Windows 7 to attendees.
I'm assuming this build will not be the same one (the "M3" build 6780) that leaked over the past week. The reason? Microsoft just added a bunch of new Windows 7 sessions to the PDC agenda that are focused on new user interface elements that are not part of the 6870 build I saw last week.
One of the new PDC sessions mentions a "Windows 7 Desktop Taskbar." Another mentions "new shell user experiences APIs (application programming interfaces). And another is slated to discuss "new APIs to find, visualize and organize."
I haven't seen the new taskbar that is part of some of the Windows 7 builds that I've heard a select few testers have seen and had an opportunity to play with. It's not surprising that Microsoft has been especially vigilant in guarding what the UI of Windows 7 looks like, as that's the final "fit and finish" that distinguish operating system releases.
One Windows Live Wave 3 tester mentioned to me earlier this week that some Windows Live testers aren't too happy with the UI direction Microsoft is taking. From his note:
"For some reason, Microsoft has completely removed icons from tool bars (or Command bar) in all Live apps. A bug report 'All Live products: Toolbar icons missing' was closed as 'Resolved (By Design)' by Microsoft with the following comment (from a Micorsoft representative): 'Windows and Windows Live is moving to a much more typographical driven UI over all (not saying it will all look like WLM!). The reason is that all the whitespace puts the spotlight on your content instead of the app frame.'
"Looking at the leaked W7 M3 pics, Windows Explorer sports the same icon-less tool bar.
"I think it's a step backwards. I don't know who Microsoft is listening to, but it's definitely not going in the right direction."
Back to Windows 7. Microsoft does make it clear that the code that users will be getting is "pre-beta." (I'm still hearing Win 7 Beta 1 is due in December 2008 and the final Win7 ship target is some time in the latter half of 2009.) So I guess that's one of the sets of bits that will be on the 160 GB external hard drive that Microsoft is providing to PDC attendees.
What other software do you hope Microsoft is ready to dole out to developers this fall?
Update: Attendees of Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2008, the first week of November, also will be getting the same Windows 7 pre-beta build.