Revealed: What's in Windows 7

27 Oct 2008

PDC 2008: Read our in-depth guide to the new features in Windows 7 here

Microsoft has released the first pre-beta code of Windows 7, writes Barry Collins at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

The next-generation operating system includes a bevy of new features, including a revamped Windows desktop, support for multitouch, USB drive encryption and improved boot times and performance.

Click below for in-depth guides to:

The user interface

Multitouch controls

Networking

Device management

Tools for IT departments

Microsoft is bullish about Windows 7's prospects, claiming the company "has never been in such great shape prior to a release of Windows".

However, it admits that Vista caused both customers and OEMS too much pain, but promised that they would now reap the benefits in Windows 7. "The ecosystem wasn't ready for the release of Windows Vista," said Windows senior vice president, Steve Sinofksy.

"The driver compatibility wasn't there, the application compatibility wasn't there. UAC [user account control] was so famous, I thought it might surpass Clippy," he joked.

Sinofsky said Microsoft's decision not to completely overhaul the Windows codebase will benefit those who have already migrated to Vista. "The investment we made in Windows Vista will pull forward," he said, citing the company's decision to change the underlying Windows version number to 6.1 rather than 7 as a sign of its intention to smooth the upgrade path.

"If it works on Windows Vista, it'll work in Windows 7. The move from Vista to Windows 7 we expect to be seamless."

Faster and more stable

Microsoft claims to have made a series of improvements to both the performance and stability of the Windows platform. The company claims to have shaved seconds off the Windows boot times by running device initialisations in parallel processes and by booting fewer services at start-up.

A clean install of an early build of Windows 7 on a Dell M1330 laptop, with a Core 2 Duo T9500 running at 2.6GHz and 3GB of RAM, still took around 40 seconds to go from power off to ready for action. It takes merely a second or two to resume from Hibernate, however.

Microsoft also claims it's involved PC makers and software partners right from the beginning of the Windows 7 development process to help minimise problems. "We had a laser focus on helping OEMs," said Gabriel Aul, group program manager for Windows Performance. "We had a clear plan and reached out to them much earlier. Our development teams have done joint development with them."

How many versions?

Microsoft refused to disclose how many different versions of Windows 7 there will be. The company did indicate, however, that it plans to cover the burgeoning market for netbooks, which are generally pre-loaded with Windows XP rather than Vista because of the latter's overpowering system requirements.