Microsoft last week previewed Windows 7, the next major upgrade to its desktop operating system, at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. Microsoft promised a beta version of Windows 7 by early 2009, with a final release toward the end of that year. Microsoft isn't exactly throwing its current operating system under the bus, but it's clear the company is eager to move on to what's next. Passing references to Vista in Windows VP Steven Sinofsky's keynote address were of problems with Vista's launch and lessons learned.
Windows 7 won't be a major overhaul. A big focus will be on its user interface, reflecting an industry obsession with good looks in the iPhone era. Vista's UAC--the pesky security alert feature--will become less intrusive and more adjustable. A new taskbar will let users manage windows and open documents, among other things. Application windows can be automatically split into shared space on the screen, making editing two documents simultaneously much easier.
Businesses will see new features and improvements, though some will require an upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2. Direct Access will let employees access a corporate network without a VPN; BitLocker encryption will expand to portable media; and Windows search will sift through e-mails, encrypted files, and enterprise repositories. There also will be improved deployment tools. And business and technology managers alike will be pleased to know that Windows 7 won't break application compatibility with Vista applications. The OS upgrade will have the same hardware requirements as Vista.
Touch technology will be one of the breakthrough features in Windows 7. Other than that, however, there's not much that's earth-shattering about it. If Microsoft can avoid the mistakes made with Vista, an incremental improvement might be seen as a big improvement.
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