At its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 7 running on a Lenovo netbook equipped with just 1 GB of memory and a low-end Intel Atom processor. The high-profile demo indicated that Microsoft believes its next OS must be suitable for a broad range of computing devices, not just the high-end systems favored by businesses, gamers, and enthusiasts.
That makes sense. Revenue from Microsoft's key Windows franchise grew just 2% in the most recent quarter as more PC buyers opted for netbook-style PCs.
Netbooks, from offshore manufacturers like Taiwan's Asus and China's Lenovo, typically lack the horsepower to run Microsoft's big and bulky Vista operating system. But they're fully capable of performing routine computing tasks such as e-mailing, Web surfing, and instant messaging. Many models feature the free Linux OS.
Lenovo on Tuesday introduced the IdeaPad S10e netbook for the education market. Windows Vista is not available on the system. Buyers can choose either Windows XP or Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop as the OS.
Windows 7, it appears, is Microsoft's answer to the netbook problem. "We're pretty excited about the work that we've done on performance, and I'm pretty excited about this class of machine and the work that we can do to deliver Windows 7 on those machines," said Microsoft senior VP Steven Sinofsky, as he demonstrated the system.
Microsoft on Tuesday offered developers their first look at Windows 7, which the company hopes will erase memories of Vista. Windows Vista has been poorly received by many businesses and consumers. Microsoft said it plans to release a trial, or beta, version of Windows 7 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.
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.
For some visual info on Windows 7, click on the link to see 24 screen shots of the upcoming OS.