Microsoft on Tuesday took the wraps off the preview version of Windows 7, which will be the successor to Vista. Julie Larson Green, Microsoft's VP for Windows experience, hosted a demo in which she walked attendees through the features of the operating system.
At first glance, Windows 7 maintains the streamlined look of Vista, but appears more muted -- even Windows XP-like. Mostly, Microsoft seems to be focusing more on functionality, possibly in a bid to put some distance between Windows 7 and the criticisms which have dogged Vista.
In the press release touting the Windows 7 preview, Microsoft framed those functionality issues in general terms. As the release words it, Windows 7 will enable users to "work the way you want," "make everyday tasks faster and easier," and "make new things possible."
Regarding that last bullet point, Microsoft explains this means Windows 7 will be easier to connect to cameras, phones, and printers. That's handled in the OS by Windows 7's new Device Center.
Most obviously, a quick tour through Windows 7 reveals its new taskbar, which is sparser than in previous iterations of the OS. From the screen shots, it's clear that Microsoft has listened to criticism and tuned many features, including search and access to security controls. The look and feel of the user interface is also highly customizable.
The version of Windows 7 previewed at PDC is technically a pre-beta release. The official shipment of the final version is expected in about a year's time.