Windows 7 Beta Due In Early 2009

Microsoft says the next version of its franchise OS will feature improved compatibility and will be more user friendly than Vista.
Microsoft on Tuesday offered developers their first look at Windows 7, a forthcoming computer operating system that the company hopes will erase memories of Windows Vista, which has been poorly received by many businesses and consumers. Microsoft said it plans to release a trial, or beta, version of the OS early next year.

Windows 7 will feature a new taskbar and a streamlined interface that will make users' most frequently used programs—such as a music player or a word processing app--easier to access, according to Microsoft. It will also include a new feature, Device Stage, that's designed to increase compatibility between the host computer and commonly used peripherals such as printers, phones, and digital cameras.

The company also said, "Windows 7 will offer more options than ever to customize and personalize Windows-based PCs with styles that match the user's personality," though it provided little detail.

Perhaps most significantly, Microsoft said applications that are compatible with Windows Vista will work with Windows 7 because the two operating systems share the same basic architecture. "Windows 7 extends developers' investments in Windows Vista," the company said in a statement.

Upon its debut in January of last year, Vista was roundly criticized for its lack of compatibility with applications built for the older Windows XP operating system. The problem was partly to blame for the fact that few businesses have upgraded from XP to Vista, even though Vista has now been on the market for almost two years.

Consumers and enterprises alike also complained about Vista's heavy hardware and memory requirements, and intrusive security measures that added extra steps to even routine computing tasks. Microsoft no longer mentions Vista by name in its latest Windows ads and appears to be accelerating efforts to bring Windows 7 into production.

"With our new approach to planning and development we now have a great foundation for our partners to start learning and innovating on this exciting new version of Windows," said Steven Sinofsky, senior VP for Microsoft's Windows Engineering Group, in a statement.

Software pros gathering this week at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday were given an early pre-build of Windows 7 to preview. Microsoft has also established a Web site where developers can learn more about building applications for Windows 7.