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10/19/2007
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Microsoft Wants Smaller Software Footprints Starting With Windows 7

Microsoft will use a bare-bones version of the Windows kernel, called MinWin, as the starting point for the development of future products, including Windows 7 and Windows Server.

Microsoft apparently is putting its Windows operating system on a diet.

Acknowledging criticisms that the Windows operating system is "bloated," a senior company official said the software maker has adopted a new, modular approach to OS development that will yield more streamlined products beginning with Windows 7 -- a successor to Windows Vista that's expected to be available some time in 2010.

"We're starting on this path," said Microsoft distinguished engineer Eric Traut, during a presentation at a college campus.

"A lot of people think of Windows as this large, bloated operating system. That's maybe a fair characterization," said Traut, who was speaking last week at the University of Illinois. A video of his presentation appeared Friday on the blog IstartedSomething.com.

With an eye toward offering slimmer products, Microsoft will use a bare-bones version of the Windows kernel, called MinWin, as the starting point for the development of future products, including Windows 7 and Windows Server.

Microsoft programmers will use MinWin as a base for development and then layer on only what's needed for particular Windows versions. "There's a really nice little core inside Windows," said Traut.

In adopting a more modular approach to Windows development, Microsoft may be bowing to criticism that current, one-size-fits-all versions of the OS are overstuffed for many user requirements. To prove his point, Traut demonstrated a version of MinWin built on 25 Mbytes of data, compared to Windows Vista's 4-Gbyte footprint.

"We've taken a shot at stripping out all the layers above and making sure we have a clean architectural layer," said Traut.

Microsoft has no plans to "productize" MinWin, but will use it as the basis for future OS development. "We're definitely going to be using this in a lot of the products we build," said Traut.

Microsoft may be hoping that the Windows-on-Weight Watchers approach will help it fend off competition from Linux and Web-based software -- non-Microsoft computing alternatives that impose less demanding hardware requirements on end users.

Despite the fact that Windows Vista launched earlier this year amid considerable hype, many consumers and businesses have shied away from the OS, citing cost and compatibility concerns, in addition to Vista's steep resource requirements.

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