Windows 7 nearly ready for public debut

Microsoft has almost hit the halfway mark on the road to Windows 7 – and after a prolonged silence on all things to do with the successor to the much-criticised Vista due by the end of next year Redmond’s wheels are spinning up to speed.

Attendees at the October’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) to be held late October in Los Angeles will be the first to get a deep dive into the new OS. This will be followed by a second showing at the annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) held in LA two weeks later.

There’s been no hard detail as to exactly what Microsoft will reveal nor any indication that the massed crowd will receive a ‘technical preview’ or beta build of the next-gen Windows 7. But both the PDC and WinHEC have in the past been crucial seeding platforms for Microsoft to distribute advance copies of each edition of the Windows OS in varying pre-release stages from rough-hewn ‘milestone’ builds to a polished and near-final Beta 2 release or refresh.

And with only 18 months to go before Microsoft hits its proclaimed goal of shipping Windows 7 before the end of 2009 – even if that means sending the ‘release to manufacture’ (RTM) build off to the DVD duplication houses which takes place months before the OS actually hits the shelves – the arrival of the first public beta can’t be too far way.

One sign of heightened activity inside the Windows 7 bunker and Microsoft’s awareness that the clock is ticking is the debut of a new official Windows 7 blog helmed by none other than Windows 7 chief Steven Sinofsky and aimed at “enthusiasts bloggers and those that are the most passionate about Windows”.

Just don’t expect an avalanche of scoops and screenshots – at least not yet. The Engineering Windows 7 blog is set to continue Microsoft’s measured approach to what it reveals and when it does so on the anticipated OS.

“We as a team definitely learned some lessons about ‘disclosure’ and how we can all too easily get ahead of ourselves in talking about features before our understanding of them is solid” says a first post by Sinofsky and co-host Jon DeVaan who heads the Windows Core Operating System Division.

“Our intent with Windows 7 and the pre-release communication is to make sure that we have a reasonable degree of confidence in what we talk about when we do talk. Related to disclosure is the idea of how we make sure not to set expectations around the release that end up disappointing you-features that don’t make it claims that don’t stick or support we don’t provide.”

Sinofsky’s comments hark back to the many new technologies announced for Windows ‘Longhorn’ leading to overhyped expectations which were dashed as one by one as features were dropped from what became Windows Vista.
Sinofsky took over Windows 7 following years of helming the Microsoft Office team which always proved to be a tight-run ship. He’s brought the same cautious step-by-step approach to revealing what’s new in Windows 7.

To date all that’s been confirmed is the inclusion of touchscreen support in the OS although native virtualisation is also on the cards in order to help overcome compatibility issues running software written for older versions of Windows. Windows 7 is also expected to get a radically revised XML-based interface sporting elements of the Office 2007 ribbon based on the work of Windows User Experience veep Julie Larson-Green who lead the Office 2007 user interface team when Sinofsky was Office supremo and has since been hired by Sinofsky to bring the same fresh approach to the OS.