The Windows 7 FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is Windows 7?
Windows 7 is the successor to Windows Vista.
When will it be released?
Microsoft is aiming for a Jan 2010 release. But, it’s too early to tell for sure. If all is well, then it may even be released in time for 2009 Christmas. Otherwise, its also possible that it will be delayed like Windows Vista.
What happened to Vienna? Wasn’t it supposed to be the succesor to Windows 7?
Originally Windows Vista was supposed to be a minor update to Windows Xp and Vienna (formerly codenamed Blackcomb) – it’s succesor was supposed to be a major update. Another build, codenamed Fiji was supposed to be released between Vista and Vienna. But Windows Vista evolved into a major update and got delayed severely. So out went plans for an interim release between Vista and Vienna.
Last year Steven Sinofsky took over the reigns of the Windows Developement team from Jim Allchin. Not being a fan of the fancy random codenames Microsoft had being using during the Allchin era, Sinofsky got rid of them and decided to call the next build of Windows simply Windows 7. So Windows 7 is Vienna.
Will it run on my current PC/Notebook?
Windows 7 will feature an modified Windows Server 2008 kernel which itself evolved from Windows Vista kernel. Hence, Windows 7 will support all Vista compatible hardware. In fact Microsoft stated that all Vista drivers would work with Windows 7. Windows 7 will have 32bit as well as 64 bit editions.
But the real question is if current generation PC/Notebook are powerful enough to deliver decent performance with Windows 7. Frankly speaking its too early to answer this question accurately. We will probably be in a better position to answer this question by the same time next year.
Historically each version of Windows has been more resource hungry than the previous (heck, even Wndows XP SP2 was more resource hungry than Windows XP SP1). And this is only natural given that each version has more features and hence more background processes. But, Vista’s system requirements were fairly steep compared to Windows XP.
Last year Bill Gates had claimed that Windows 7 would take less memory, consume less power and be more efficient (source). I find that a bit hard to believe (if it’s indeed true then it would prove conclusively that Windows Vista is indeed terribly unoptimised). Since, Windows 7 is evolutionary rather than revolutionary like Windows Vista, I dont expect the jump in system requirements to be as steep. But I would expect that it would require at least 2gb’s of ram and a decent Dual Core processor to run smoothly. Infoworld is providing a Windows 7 compatibility widget which aims at providing generalized sense of a system’s suitability for running a post-Vista Windows OS.
What about software support. Will it be able to run all Vista compatible software?
Yes. Since Windows 7 is an evolved version of the Windows Vista kernel, all Vista compatible software will run on Windows 7.
What’s new in Windows 7?
After the Vista debacle where Microsoft had to go back on many much hyped features, Microsoft isn’t talking a lot this time around. Their new mantra is Under Promise and Over Deliver. Hence, unlike pre Vista era where we were flooded with information regarding the then upcoming release, we know fairly little about Windows 7. Here is what we do know :
One of the most hyped features of Windows 7 is the multi-touch support. Obviously, this feature would work only with multi-touch compatible displays. You can read more on this at the Windows Vista Blog. Windows 7 would bring home many of the capabilities of Microsoft Surface such as ability to paint with fingers and use multi-touch gestures to browse through photo-galleries.Windows 7 will also provide better support for other natural forms of input. Speech technology and handwriting recognition will be improved (source).
Windows 7 is also expected to feature a OSX-like dock.
According to TGDaily Windows 7 will feature a heterogeneous graphics system capable of handling multiple graphics cards from different vendors.
Windows 7 will feature something called Windows Sensors. The exact purpose of this is not yet known.
The start menu will receive minor improvements like the ability to easily pin/unpin any entry. Also if you search for an item the displayed results will occupy the entire start menu and not just the left coloumn.
Windows 7 will feature updated and improved versions of many other Windows Components like Calculator, Paint and WordPad. Paint will now allow you to directly paint using your fingers as mentioned above. A part from that it will also include a ruler. The improved calculator will be multi-line and feature Programmer and Statistics modes along with unit conversion.
All of them will also recieve a visual upgrade, with menu based navigation being replaced by Ribbons (in Paint and Word). More details can be found here.
UAC is possibly one of the most annoying new features of Windows Vista. Microsoft has promised to make it more tolerable in Windows 7 by reducing the number of prompts. You will be allowed to set the level of notifications you want to receive.
Windows 7 is expected to support Virtual hard disk.
Gadgets will be integrated with the explorer and now can be placed anywhere on the desktop.
Security Center will be replaced with Windows Solution Center which will encompass both Security and Maintenance of the computer. Many other new items will be added to the Control Panel like Accelerators, ClearType Text Tuner, Display Color Calibration Wizard, Gadgets, Infrared, Recovery, Troubleshooting, Workspaces Center, Location and Other Sensors, Credential Manager , Biometric Devices and System Icons.
It will feature something called Recovery Center. Recovery Center will feature the System Restore option as well as a Wipe and Reload option to perform a complete restore to a previous condition (unlike in System Restore it will restore all previous documents and delete any new ones). Windows 7 will provide a functional rollback system
Windows PowerShell which was planned for inclusion in Vista is also expected to be included in Windows 7.
Castle from Longhorn will make a comeback in Windows 7 in form of HomeGroup.
Windows 7 will have numerous other minor tweaks like a resizeable search box, transparent sidebar and removal of sidebar from the control panel.
Windows 7 as well as Windows Vista will support DirectX 11. But given that DirectX normally has a 4 year development cycle I am not sure if it will be supported out of the box in Windows 7.
It will feature tighter integration with Windows Live. According to Bill Gates one of the main goals of Windows 7 is to be more user-centric. Quoting Bill Gates
That means that right now when you move from one PC to another, you’ve got to install apps on each one, do upgrades on each one. Moving information between them is very painful. We can use Live Services to know what you’re interested in. So even if you drop by a [public] kiosk or somebody else’s PC, we can bring down your home page, your files, your fonts, your favorites and those things. So that’s kind of the user-centric thing that Live Services can enable.
Windows components such as Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Meeting Space, Movie Maker, and Photo Gallery will no longer be provided out of the box. Instead they would be provided through Windows Live.
How much of this actually makes it to the final release is yet to be seen.
What about the GUI? Will Windows 7 feature a new look or will it retain the Aero theme?
According to Paul Thurrott the third Milestone build of Windows was shipped during the first week of September. By and large it retained the appearance of Windows Vista. Hence, any significant visual upgrades don’t seem likely at this point. But we do know that Windows 7 will have a modified boot screen.
What is MinWin?
Last year Microsoft demonstrated something called MinWin which required only 25mb of harddisk space and 40mb of RAM. It can be considered as a severely stripped down version of Windows. It lacks a GUI and contains only the core libraries. It did include I/O and networking subsystems. MinWin project aimed at componentizing the Windows Libraries by isolating the central binaries and reducing dependencies. While this generated a lot of hyped as many users hoped that thanks to MinWin project, Windows 7 will be less resource hungry than it’s predecessor, it’s important to note that MinWin isn’t intended for public release and won’t necessarily result in end user improvements.
You can find more details on MinWin over here.
What happened to WinFS ?
Before I address this question I would like to clarify exactly what WinFS was. A popular misconception is that it’s a is physical file system (like FAT32 and NTFS). Actually it’s an advanced storage subsystem built on top of NTFS. In short it’s main objective was to allow better organisation and retrieval of data. You can find more info on WinFS here and here. It was supposed to be one of the three foundation pillars of Windows Vista, but was dropped along the way by Microsoft.
We haven’t heard anything about WinFS for more than two years. Many of it’s promised benefits like Desktop Search have already been integrated into Windows Vista. Many of it’s features showed up in Microsoft SQL Server. But, as a project it stands cancelled. For more on this check out this article.
Will Windows 7 be any good?
Now this is a question I can’t answer yet. Microsoft has the tendency to make their future product look better than they actually are. So we can only hope for the best.