What we know about Windows 7

Microsoft is remaining tight-lipped about the next version of Windows, due in late 2009 or early 2010: ZDNet.com's Redmond-watcher Mary Jo Foley summarises what we do know.

Microsoft still isn't willing to talk — or even comment on any of the information its own employees already have discussed publicly — about Windows 7, but here's a list of what's known already about Windows 7.

Remember, as the Softies themselves like to remind us, everything about Windows is fluid up until the time the product ships. (And that is one of the main reasons the Windows client team has decided not to talk publicly about Windows 7 — so that no one will be able to prove that they cut planned features from the product.)

Here are just some of the many tidbits that have been reported about Windows 7 so far:

Windows 7 is being designed around five pillars. The five, as reported by AeroXP are: specialised for laptops; designed for services; personalised for everyone; optimised for entertainment; engineered for 'ease of ownership'.

Windows 7 will be more modularised and componentised than Vista or other previous Windows releases. Microsoft hasn't said whether it will allow users/PC makers to opt into (and out of) installing subsystems, in the same way that Windows Server 2008 users can choose specific 'roles', but hints that Microsoft is considering this approach for Windows 7 abound. Microsoft officials have discussed their work on 'MinWin', a streamlined version of the Windows core. But MinWin won't be part of Windows 7, as Microsoft finally confirmed months after bloggers and reporters first discussed it.

Windows 7 will be a minor update to Vista — with 'minor', here, meaning 'with as little disruption as possible to users and their applications'. Microsoft has said Windows 7 will use the same driver model that Vista did.

Windows 7 will allow users to run legacy applications in virtualised mode to minimise backward compatibility problems. Whether Microsoft will deliver this virtualisation via an application-virtualisation solution like SoftGrid, the new Kidaro enterprise virtualisation product or in some other way is not yet known.

Windows 7 will include touch functionality (seemingly, whether OEMs are keen on touch or not).

Microsoft has demonstrated the multi-touch functionality that will ultimately appear in Windows 7.

Windows 7 will be more tightly integrated with Windows Live services. Windows Live becomes the preferred way Microsoft updates existing PC-based functionality and adds new bits in between Windows releases.

Windows 7 will be more tightly integrated with Windows Mobile. More Windows connections to mobile phones are coming, according to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

Windows 7 will add support for 'HomeGroup' networkingthe successor to the 'workgroups' concept, akin to the feature codenamed 'Castle' that Microsoft at one point intended to deliver as part of Vista.

Windows 7 will add native support for Virtual Hard Disks (VHDs) — a feature Microsoft already provides in Vista, in the form of Complete PC Backup (in the Business version of Vista).

If you've seen anything else in other press and blog reports about Windows 7 that should be added to this list, let us know.