It's here! After months of speculation, Windows 7 was finally unveiled last month at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC). Through a series of well-orchestrated keynote presentations and supporting breakout sessions, Microsoft walked conference attendees through the highlights of its new desktop OS: better performance, an improved user experience, and some nifty media-sharing features. Overall, Microsoft's pitch was quite compelling, and the PDC crowd was practically salivating at the chance to play with Microsoft's latest and greatest.
But after the stage props came down, and after the projectors finally went cold, attendees were left with a pre-beta copy of something that looked less like a new OS than the repackaging of an old one. At least that was my impression after I started exploring the Windows 7 M3 (Milestone 3) bits that came on my shiny new 160GB Western Digital USB hard disk (one of the better tchotchkes I've received at a conference). As I reported on my Enterprise Desktop blog, the more I dug into Windows 7, the more I saw an OS that looked and felt like a slightly tweaked version of Windows Vista.
[ Will your PC run Windows 7? Find out with InfoWorld's Windows 7 compatibility calculator. If Windows 7 is a dead end, what's next? Several new personal computing paradigms are emerging. Are Windows 7 critics rushing to judgment? Enterprise Windows' J. Peter Bruzzese says, "Just hold on!" And what's so wrong about Vista, anyway? See "Death match: Windows Vista versus XP." ]
Just what was so new about Microsoft's next Windows, apart from a rejuggled UI? Windows 7 appeared to suck memory like Vista, to consume CPU like Vista, and to have the same consumer focus. How would this product be received by enterprise customers, the vast majority of whom had soundly rejected its predecessor? After all, if Vista wasn't good enough for big business, then surely a Vista-derived encore would meet with a similarly chilly reception.
If any pre-beta software ever called for a close look and benchmark testing, Windows 7 M3 was it. With so many questions to answer, and the fate of Windows in the enterprise hanging in the balance, I rolled up my sleeves and dove in. I started by examining Windows 7's innards -- the kernel and other low-level structures -- then slowly worked my way out to subsystem behavior and application runtime characteristics. Because one of the focal points of Microsoft's keynote presentation was improved performance, I looked for signs that Windows 7 would be faster, more responsive, and less resource-intensive than the bloated Windows Vista.