Windows Vista has its detractors, which have refused to adopt it, and it has its proponents who tell these parties to stop whining or get off the ship. However, whether you are a critic of Vista or an advocate, chances are you hold at least a passing interest about Microsoft's next OS, Windows 7, set to release in 2010.
The Windows 7 project was originally led by Jim Allchin. Now Steven Sinofsky has taken up the reins and is guiding the project. Sinofsky urged his workers to maintain secrecy about the project until the development is in an advanced stage.
In a rare interview with CNET, Sinofsky finally offers a bit of insight on Windows 7. Sinofsky subtly states that the team is learning from Windows Vista's pains, commenting, "The reactions that we've had to some of the lessons learned in Windows Vista are really playing into our strategy of getting together a great plan for Windows 7, and working with all the partners in the ecosystem in a very deliberate way, such that the end result is a very positive experience for all of us."
Sinofsky says that he wants to limit misinformation and make sure information given is pertinent to the consumer. In response to Apple trying to define the Windows experience in a negative light in the minds of consumers, Sinofsky comments, "In a way, what I would say is Apple isn't really talking about where they're going".
He confirms that Microsoft is committed to releasing Windows 7 "three years after the general availability of Windows Vista" a shorter release period than between Vista and XP. Sinofsky refused to comment on Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' comments in Miami in which he indicated that Windows 7, perhaps just in beta form was coming next year.
The increasing hardware complexity is not a negative but a positive, according to Sinofsky. He acknowledges that some basic interface redesign may be needed, and he points to Vista's graphics interface redesign as an example of a similar successful redesign.
Additional driver compatibilities will not be introduced in Windows 7 says Sinofsky -- that was the job of Windows Vista. He says that Windows 7's kernel will be an evolution of the leaner kernel from Windows Server 2008, which in turn was an evolution over the Windows Vista kernel.
Adding more detail on the kernel, Sinofsky adds, "So, memory management, networking, process management, all of the security hardening, all of those things will carry forth, and maintain the compatibility with applications that people expect. Finally, we are going to make sure that the release is available both in 32 bit and 64 bit, which is an additional help for maintaining compatibility, particularly with device drivers."
While he wouldn't shed specifics on features of interest to the consumer, Sinofsky insisted, "But we're actually going to bring forward the compatibility, and we're going to make sure that there's a lot of value for everybody who's a customer of Windows 7."
As to the closed-lip policy, Sinofsky say Microsoft's approach is similar to that with Internet Explorer 8. He says that like internet explorer, they will likely go to developers first, then advertise the features to consumers, after getting initial feedback.
Really Sinofsky did not add very much information to the picture on Windows 7. He did offer some tantalizing clues on where the Windows 7 kernel is headed. But he didn't provide much information on new features or the overall design direction. The result is a double edged sword for Microsoft -- his carefully guarded remarks will likely increase the excitement and expectations for Windows 7. Conversely, the OS may suffer from these same high expectations, though if it can't deliver. It should be interesting to see in coming months as more information is released, but for now we can only wait.