On Monday I attended an exclusive workshop on Windows 7. Microsoft briefed us on the core changes on Windows 7, their goals for the client and the ideas for the future of Windows Live.
Mike Nash, Corporate Vice President, Windows Product Management, kicked off the day with his "introduction to Windows 7". The session focussed on the work Microsoft have been doing on Windows client over the last two years. Nash started by stating that Microsoft wants users to continue using Windows, a fairly obvious statement but one backed up by the new advances in touch, hardware and the operating system that should keep users on Windows.
An overview of the hardware available for Windows was next up where Nash talked about the growth of the form factor for netbooks and their low price. It seemed that Microsoft were fully aware of the shift to netbook computers and have been considering this in the design of Windows 7. A "huge adoption" of 64bit computing has started due to OEMs forced to make the switch to make use of the 4GB RAM included on their laptops.
Nash also spoke about customer feedback and a new approach to planning for Microsoft. The regular cycle for delivering the operating system is sufficient but Microsoft is aware consumers want regular updates to applications such as Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Photo Gallery. Nash also commented that some machines a year ago would be running Windows Messenger, Windows Live Messenger and MSN Messenger on the same machine making it extremely confusing for end users.
Nash finished up his talk by stating that the M3 build for attendees is an API complete build before introducing Steven Sinofsky.
Steven Sinofsky,senior vice president for the Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, donned the stage to set the context for the engineering side of Windows 7. He joked that UAC had nearly got so famous, that it might surpass the fame that the clippy in Microsoft Office achieved. He enthusiastically stated that by implementing the same account and driver models from Vista the idea is that anything that works on Vista will work on 7. A brave claim for an operating system that people are expecting a lot from.
Sinofsky wanted to learn about the manufacturing process of PCs. He went to a plant, "put on the hat, booties and white coat" and learned about how a PC goes from parts to a finished PC in the same building, within 1 hour. This experience helped Microsoft understand the role that Windows has when OEMs are building PCs, overall creating a better ecosystem and best experience for end users.
Sinofsky admitted Microsoft keeps an eye on blogs, customer support reports and end users feedback. Microsoft has 1000 people working on Windows and Sinofsky described making Windows like making pizza, you can't keep 1 billion people happy.
Apparently people love to customize and tweak windows so Microsoft has decided to take some action in these areas. 95% of users change their background, 40% change it more than once a month. "Technical users" are twice as likely to use a solid background colour. Web photos followed by a personal picture are the two most common forms of background.
Consumer trends are indicating a huge trend in form factors, mobile PCs are driving the trend towards multi PC households. When consumers add a PC to their household, 66% of the time it is a mobile PC. Consumers have expressed a desire to connect their additional PCs to home resources such as printers. Additional PCs are not just for browsing, 1.5% of PCs are browser only. Low priced PCs have accelerated the market and trends.
Business trends are similar. Enterprises top 5 pain points are around mobile TCO and security. Improving the support for mobile users and protecting their data is in need of a greater solution than is currently presented in Windows XP & Vista.
The path to RTM was detailed briefly with no exact time lines. Feedback will be measured from the pre-beta, E7 blog, beta (Microsoft Connect), feedback tool, CEIP data and during the release candidate phase. The key to each step throughout the beta will define the full schedule and timelines. Once Beta 1 is complete Microsoft will have a better idea when the next milestones will come down the line.
Sinofsky finished his session by describing the feedback tool which has been re-introduced from the early Vista alpha and beta builds. This will allow users to simply click "send feedback" in any window and have their feedback sent directly to Microsoft.