Windows 7: Home Networking In Three Steps

The next version of Microsoft's operating system promises easier content sharing between devices.

Windows 7 screen shot.
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 7 OS will allow users to link their PCs to their other devices, as well as to computers owned by family and friends, in just three steps using a feature called Home Group, a company rep said Wednesday at the CES 2009 show in Las Vegas.

"For most consumers, setting up a home network is way too complicated," said product manager Charlotte Jones, during Microsoft's CES keynote presentation. "But, in Windows 7, there's a feature called Home Group, and it sets up a home network very easily."

Windows 7 automatically networks with Internet-connected devices added to a user's Home Group, Jones said. In a live demonstration at CES, Jones added her husband's PC to her network so she could access his music files.

"My husband has the best music on his PC, so I can navigate to his PC just like it's my own hard drive and pick some music," said Jones. After tapping the files, users could play the music on their own computer or export it to a third-party device, such as an Xbox. "It's way cool," she said.

"I set up a home network, and it didn't take me a whole Saturday to do it. In three steps and two minutes, I was accessing my other PCs and devices," Jones said.

Earlier, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used his opening keynote address to pitch some of Windows 7's other benefits, which Microsoft hopes will erase memories of the widely maligned Vista.

"We are on track to deliver the best version of Windows ever. We're putting in all the right ingredients -- simplicity, reliability, and speed, and working hard to get it right, and to get it ready," said Ballmer.

Compared with Vista, Windows 7 "should boot more quickly, have longer battery life, and fewer alerts," Ballmer said.

Ballmer also touted Windows 7's improved support for networking and multimedia content, as well as its touch-screen capabilities.

Members of Microsoft's TechNet and MSEN communities have immediate access to a beta version of Windows 7, screenshots of which are now available, while the general public will be able to download it for trial directly from Microsoft starting Friday.

A final version of Windows 7 is expected to be available in late 2009 or early 2010.