Microsoft Tuesday revealed Windows 7 at its annual Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles. Windows 7 is designed to replace Windows Vista as the main operating system for Windows-based PC users.
With Apple's OS X Snow Leopard also under development, we met up with Ian Moulster, Windows Live commercial lead for Microsoft, to talk through some of Microsoft's key ideas and discover what the next generation of operating systems aim to offer both Mac and PC users.
[ Check out InfoWorld's preview of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. | Is Windows 7 any good? Tom Yager says Windows 7 atones for Vista's sins, but Randall C. Kennedy says Windows 7 is more of the same old mess. ]
At this year's WWDC, Apple announced that the next version of its operating system would take a break from introducing new features and focus on performance. "We have delivered more than a thousand new features to OS X in just seven years and Snow Leopard lays the foundation for thousands more," said Bertrand Serlet, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering. "In our continued effort to deliver the best user experience, we hit the pause button on new features to focus on perfecting the world's most advanced operating system."
The OS X update, expected to ship in June 2009, will be optimized for multicore processors and enable "breakthrough amounts of RAM -- up to a theoretical 16TB." Apple also promised a new, modern media platform with QuickTime X. The update will also offer out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Exchange 2007.
On the other side of the fence, Microsoft has had highly publicized troubles with its Vista operating system. So our first question to Microsoft was whether Windows 7 was a smokescreen for fixing some of the problems with Vista. "No," came the answer, "Service Packs 1 and 2 are fixing things," said Microsoft's Ian Moulster. "This is less about fixing things and more about building on the good stuff. This is about where we go from here."
Having got that out of they way, we got stuck into discussing the future of the operating system. It's clear that Snow Leopard is about much more than just a speed bump, and Microsoft has more than just a few "borrowed" ideas being used to fix Vista's flaws.
So let's get started with the biggest news: Sometime next year the desktop and laptop computer is highly likely to sport multitouch, touchscreen technology.
Touchscreen technology confirmed
One major new feature confirmed for Windows 7 is a vastly improved touchscreen support. Taking its cue from the iPhone and the technology from Microsoft Surface, Windows 7 will see the same kind of multitouch gestures applied to the desktop or laptop computer.
"You'll be able to drag around windows and resize photos by pulling them apart... that sort of thing," said Ian Moulster. "We've redesigned the interface to make touchscreen a lot easier, and it'll be good to see what the take up will be. We already have several ways to interact with the computer: keyboard, mouse, voice, and we see this as another way that users can interact with their computer. It's more about choice than anything, just giving users another way that they can interact."