Windows 7: What's coming for business users

Microsoft showed off publicly for the first time Windows 7 at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) on October 28. But almost everything shown were consumer-focused features. Does that mean Windows 7 won't have anything for businesses?

Microsoft showed off publicly for the first time Windows 7 at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) on October 28. But almost everything shown were consumer-focused features. Does that mean Windows 7 won't have anything for businesses?

Microsoft officials say Windows 7 will include enterprise functionality, too, even though today's PDC keynote didn't highlight it.

(For screen shots of and more information about the M3 pre-beta Windows 7 build that Microsoft is distributing to PDC attendees, check out my ZDNet blogging colleague Ed Bott's blog. ActiveWin is running a meaty review of the Windows 7 M3 preview. Paul Thurrott has reviews on Windows 7 M3, as well as the Windows 7 Server 2008 R2 pre-beta.)

I asked Mike Nash, Corporate Vice President of Windows Product Management, about what's coming on the business front -- besides the fundamental changes that will benefit all users, like quicker boot speed, support for up to 256 processors and more granular User Account Control management.

Nash mentioned:

  • Branch Office Caching (hosted server caching)
  • New desktop imaging tools for managing multiple monitors, etc.
  • Bitlocker to go -- encryption for removable USB drives
  • AppLocker -- better control over which applications are authorized to be used on which machines
  • Direct Access -- RPC over HTTPS will be modified to allow users to authenticate to their domain, and access applications and resources without a VPN I didn't explain this correctly. Microsoft officials said "This is not related to RPC over HTTPS. It is a new solution to enable remote PCs to stay connected to the corp network whenever they have an internet connection. Here's more on Direct Access.
  • Native virtual hard disk (VHD) support

(I don't believe all of these features are enabled in the pre-beta Windows 7 build. I'll ask Microsoft for clarification.)

Update: Microsoft said all of these features will be in the M3 build, and Direct Access and Branch Office Caching require Windows Server 2008 R2 to work. The M3 of Windows Server 2008 R2 is being distributed to show attendees today, alongside the Windows 7 M3 pre-beta bits.

Microsoft officials said today that the M3 pre-beta of Windows 7 will go to PDC attendees, attendees of the company's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in early November, and a select group of other external testers. This is considered an application-programming-interface (API) complete build.

A first public beta of Windows 7, that will be feature-complete, is due "early next year," company officials said. (My bet? That's a worst-case date and the public beta will still show up before Christmas this year.) Don't expect multiple betas: From what officials are hinting, it sounds like there will be one beta, one release candidate and then RTM.

Microsoft still isn't changing official guidance on when Windows 7 will ship. The official date is three years from general availability of Vista, meaning early 2010. I still believe that's a worst-case date and we'll see Windows 7 by the second half of 2009.