PDC2008 will start tomorrow and everybody is expecting that news about Windows 7 will surface there. It seems that news already leaked today because some bloggers have information about new Windows 7 features. In this post, I will summarize the interesting things I’ve read today. However, I will exclude the features that I already mentioned in earlier posts. By the way, I have been invited to take part in the Windows 7 Beta Program. Thus, I will be able to report firsthand information about Windows 7 soon.

Mary-Jo Foley lists a couple of features in her post about the pre-beta of Windows 7. The main points are:

Device Stage: It is a central location for managing devices of all kinds. To be honest, I didn’t get a clear picture of this new feature from the description I read. One thing is for sure though, it is not just a revamped Device Manager. It seems to be more like a place where you can interact with devices. I think such a management tool makes sense. We connect more and more different devices to our machines and a central place where we can control everything could really be helpful. People often forget that the most important task of any operating system is to manage devices and this is Windows’ real forte. It is the main reason why cloud computing is no real threat to Windows. I doubt somehow that Google will be able to add a Device Stage to Chrome in the near future.

Ribbons: It appears that Microsoft is trying to transfer some of the success of Office 2007 to Windows. I liked the new user interface of Office 2007 from the very first moment on. I think similar changes in Windows 7 would be helpful to foster the acceptance of the Vista successor.

Release dates: PDC attendees will probably get a pre-beta release. A public beta could show up by mid-December this year, and the final by next year.

The I started something blog writes about the Windows 7 logo requirements. Most interesting is that the support of Windows 7 x64 is required. It is really time for the 32-bit area to end. I hoped that there wouldn’t be a 32-bit edition of Windows 7, but I guess that it is not yet possible, mostly because of Netbooks and similar devices. It is also important that software vendors have to follow the UAC guidelines. This will significantly reduce the number of UAC prompts that we will see in the future.

Microsoft’s Engineering Windows 7 has a lengthy article about design considerations. However, it doesn’t really say much about Windows 7. This article is very abstract and you will hardly find anything concrete in it. The most interesting part is the one about the wish of many Windows customers to make “everything customizable and everything optional”. The reason given for the somewhat monolithic structure of Windows is:

The complexity of providing a stable and consistent platform comes with the cost that we aren’t always able to “hook” everything and do have to make practical choices about how a feature should work, in an effort to plan for the future.

I understand that it is not easy to ensure stability in a system where everything is optional. However, Linux vendors already proved that this is doable. All you need is a tool that takes care of the dependencies of the various components. I think a big company like Microsoft should be able to accomplish this. If Vista had a modular structure, nobody would need Windows XP for Netbooks or old machines. Nobody would complain that Vista is too slow because everyone could just run those components that are required. Windows 7 probably won’t improve Vista with respect to modularity, but I really hope that Windows 8 will.

The fact that applications such as Windows Mail, Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker won’t be installed by default is already a step in this direction. Preston Gralla from Computerworld believes that this is Microsoft’s secret weapon against Google. The user will have to visit the Windows Live site to get these applications. I somehow doubt that this can be considered a weapon. The point about Google’s applications is that they are desktop independent.

By the way, many people confuse “desktop independent” with “OS independent”. The fact that you can use Google’s apps on different operating systems doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that you can use these tools on any (Windows) desktop without having to install and configure them first. Furthermore, it is essential that they allow you to store all data and settings in the cloud.

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Thus, the trick is not to lure people to Windows Live where they can download and install software. What Microsoft needs to be able to compete with Google are desktop independent apps that are not browser-based. This way, Microsoft can bring in its expertise with comfortable user interfaces. I think the only answer to Google’s web applications are Silverlight apps with cloud access. I bet that Silverlight 2 will be included in Windows 7. This is the real weapon against Google.

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