Windows 7 (previously codenamed Blackcomb and Vienna) is scheduled to be the next major version of Microsoft Windows, expected to be the successor of Windows Vista. Microsoft has announced that it is “scoping Windows 7 development to a three-year timeframe”, and that “the specific release date will ultimately be determined by meeting the quality bar.” The client versions of Windows 7 will ship in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, even though the server counterpart (which will succeed Windows Server 2008) will be exclusively 64-bit.
Microsoft is maintaining a policy of silence concerning discussion of plans and aspirations for Windows 7 as they focus on the release and marketing of Windows Vista, stating that Microsoft doesn’t want to promise features and then fail to deliver, though some early details of various core operating system features have emerged. As a result, little is known about the feature set, though public presentations from company officials have disseminated information about some features. Leaked information from people to whom M1 of Windows 7 was shipped also provide some insight into the feature set.
Circa 2000, Windows XP and its server counterpart Windows Server 2003 (codenamed Whistler) were planned to be followed-up by a major release of Windows that was codenamed Blackcomb (both codenames refer to the Whistler-Blackcomb resort) and scheduled for a 2005 release. Major features were planned for Blackcomb, including an emphasis on searching and querying data and an advanced storage system to enable such scenarios. In this context, a feature mentioned by Bill Gates for Blackcomb was “a pervasive typing line that will recognize the sentence that [the user is] typing in.”
Later Blackcomb was delayed and an interim minor release, codenamed “Longhorn”, was announced for a 2003 release. Even more delays later, Longhorn became a major release and accumulated many features initially planned for Blackcomb, including the advanced storage system (titled WinFS) as well as the searching system (christened Windows Search). Later Longhorn shed a few features, including WinFS but retaining the searching capabilities, en route to a 2007-launch as Windows Vista.
In the mean time, Blackcomb was given a new codename—Vienna. However, following the release of Windows Vista, it was confirmed by Microsoft on July 20, 2007 that “the internal name for the next version of the Windows Client OS” is Windows 7.
That means that right now when you move from one PC to another, you’ve got to install apps on each one, do upgrades on each one. Moving information between them is very painful. We can use Live Services to know what you’re interested in. So even if you drop by a [public] kiosk or somebody else’s PC, we can bring down your home page, your files, your fonts, your favorites and those things. So that’s kind of the user-centric thing that Live Services can enable. [Also,] in Vista, things got a lot better with [digital] ink and speech, but by the next release there will be a much bigger bet. Students won’t need textbooks; they can just use these tablet devices. Parallel computing is pretty important for the next release. We’ll make it so that a lot of the high-level graphics will be just built into the operating system. So we’ve got a pretty good outline.
Milestone 1 (M1)
December 20, 2007
The first known build of Windows 7 was identified as a “Milestone 1 (M1) code drop” according to reports sent to TG Daily and has a version number of 6.1.6519.1 according to various reports. It was sent to key Microsoft partners by January 2008 in both x86 and x64 versions. Though not yet confirmed by Microsoft, reviews and screenshots have been published by various sources. Features described include Gadgets being integrated into Windows Explorer, a Gadget for Windows Media Center, the ability to visually pin and unpin items from the Start Menu and Recycle Bin, improved media features and a new XPS Viewer. Reports also indictate that a feedback tool included in Windows 7 lists some coming features: the ability to store Internet Explorer settings on a Windows Live account, new versions of Calculator, Paint and WordPad that use Windows Presentation Foundation, and a 10 minute install process. UI changes are expected to appear in later builds of Windows 7, though there is already a bright bootscreen present, somewhat resembling pre-XP versions of Windows..
Right-click desktop menu showing options for Gadgets.
Windows 7 has reached the Milestone 1 (M1) stage and has been made available to key partners. According to reports sent to TG Daily, the build adds support for systems using multiple heterogeneous graphics cards and a new version of Windows Media Center. Other features reported to be found in M1 are mentioned above.
A minimalistic variation of the Windows kernel, known as MinWin, is being developed for use in Windows 7. The MinWin development efforts are aimed towards componentizing the Windows kernel and reducing the dependencies with a view to carving out the minimal set of components required to build a self-contained kernel as well as reducing the disk footprint and memory usage. MinWin takes up about 25 MB on disk and has a working set (memory usage) of 40 MB. It lacks a graphical user interface and is interfaced using a full-screen command line interface. It includes the I/O and networking subsystems. MinWin was first demonstrated on October 13, 2007 by Eric Traut. The demo system included an OS image, made up of about 100 files, on which a basic HTTP server was running.
Incidentally, the name MinWin was also used earlier to refer to what is currently known as Server Core in Windows Server 2008. However, the two are quite different. While both efforts are to consolidate and componentize the core of Windows, with server core, the functionality of the OS is constrained according to server roles, and unneeded components (which will never be used as the role isn’t supported) are removed from the binary image. However, the dependencies still exist in code, and the code cannot compile without the components. In contrast, with MinWin, the dependencies are consolidated into MinWin and what is not needed is removed at the code level itself. As a result, the code compiles even without any extraneous components and builds a stripped-down self-contained OS kernel image.
I will say that if you are impressed by the “touch features” in the iPhone, you’ll be blown away by what’s coming in Windows 7. Now if only we could convince more OEMs that Windows Touch Technology is going to drive their sales.[