Activists have long known that the way to take the sting out of a pejorative moniker is to adopt it and proclaim it with pride. So it is with Microsoft, whose "I'm a PC" campaign goes to the question that Mike Nash, corporate VP of Windows product management, says he's asked all the time: Why is Microsoft letting Apple define Vista?
That's an issue that Microsoft needs to put to rest if it wants Windows 7, the heir to Vista as Microsoft's officially blessed client OS, to get a better reception. Nash was first to the podium at Microsoft's Windows 7 Reviewer's Workshop on Sunday. Held before the start of Microsoft's Professional Developer's Conference, the event was packed with journalists and bloggers from around the world -- not least because Microsoft handed out Windows 7 Milestone 3 (M3) eval notebook PCs to all in attendance. Not to worry; they're all clearly marked as Microsoft property.
[ Join the Windows 7 conversation in Randall C. Kennedy's Windows Sentinel blog. | For more news from Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference, check out InfoWorld's special report. ]
Given Vista's uphill road, you can understand Microsoft's overzealous approach. But it might have done just fine with reviewers in attendance if it had just shown Windows 7, which addresses Apple, press, and market cynicism by fixing what's widely perceived to be wrong with the OS, taking particular aim at IT objections to Vista. Steve Sinofsky, in charge of Windows and Windows Live, said that "it's not necessary to break everything to make big changes." Sinofsky and others acknowledged publicly, and in the plainest terms I've heard to date, that the XP-to-Vista transition was botched. Microsoft hopes to wipe the slate clean by first pushing Vista SP1 into the market, then doing a bang-up job of the transition from Vista SP1 to Windows 7.
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The reworked Windows: Tighter, leaner
The operating system itself has gotten a considerable amount of reworking below the presentation layer. If M3 is any indication, that work has led to a tighter OS, and by "tighter" I mean that resource requirements are being lowered. Microsoft won't go on record about specific system requirements, editions, pricing, or much of anything related to the final product -- Nash said of Windows 7 that "there has never been as large a gap between what we know and what we disclose" -- but Microsoft intimated that netbooks and similarly underpowered hardware were among Windows 7's platform targets. Some small changes, like the elimination of in-memory double buffering of window contents, will make a huge difference in the memory footprint and overall demand.
The commitment to reduced utilization is echoed in an energy management profiling and reporting toolkit that Microsoft will release to developers. It takes advantage of new instrumentation in the OS to identify and recommend remedies for energy-sapping processes and drivers.