Last week we reported on the new concessions Microsoft was proposing to the EU in the hopes of quelling its ongoing antitrust battles in Europe. The solution was a simple ballot screen pushed out as a “high priority” Windows Update, but what we didn’t know at the time is that it will also be sent out to computers running Windows XP and Vista as well.
The exact lineup of browsers hasn’t been finalized yet, but it is said to include 10 of “the most widely-used web browsers that run on Windows with a usage share of equal to or more than 0.5% in the European Economic Area”. Oddly enough, it’s still not even clear if Opera meets these requirements and given that they are the ones responsible for the antitrust woes facing Microsoft, would be bitter justice.
Opera officials overjoyed with the concessions, but never resting on their laurels, are said to now be pushing for an “icon-less ballot screen”. I suppose they are concerned that many users associate the “blue E” icon with “internet” and it still gives an unfair advantage to Microsoft. They are also said to be asking that this browser ballot be pushed out worldwide, but I somehow doubt Microsoft will take this approach. The browser ballot screen will include two links, one to the manufacturers website where they can learn more and an extra link directly to a download server.
Given the amazing amount of concessions being made by Microsoft, is Opera being unreasonable by asking for more?
The announcement of a Windows 7 family pack should have come to much applause, but instead Microsoft faced an angry mob of customers who were worried that they overpaid when ordering multiple copies during the pre order promotion. If you count yourself among this crowd, it’s time to pack away the pitchforks since the pricing falls very much in line with what you would have paid for three copies anyway.
Windows 7 Home Premium family packs will retail for a very reasonable $149, but it now stands in stark contrast to the individual upgrade price of $119. I think most people would agree that the new family pack pricing is a pleasant surprise, but who would buy an individual upgrade copy when for only $30 more you can get 3? I suppose if you only have one PC this makes sense, but it still seems somewhat disproportionate.
Windows Anytime Upgrade pricing has also been revealed which allows users to pay for the option of “stepping up” to a higher product edition. Moving from Windows 7 Starter to Home Premium will run you $79.99, while the move from Home Premium to Professional will set you back $89.99.If you find you need more, you can also make the jump from Windows 7 Professional to Ultimate for a cost of $139.99. The equivalent upgrades in Vista were about 12% higher, continuing the trend of lowering the cost of Windows for consumers.
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According to Nvidia, Windows 7, which recently reached RTM, will be the catalyst that propels the concept of GPGPU computing into the mainstream.
"Previously, GPUs were almost exclusively limited to rendering and accelerating graphics and video," Chris Daniel, product manager for software at Nvidia, wrote in a Microsoft Partner blog. "With the introduction of Windows 7, the GPU and CPU will exist in a co-processing environment where each can handle the computing task they are best suited for. The CPU is exceptionally good at performing sequential calculations, I/O, and program flow, whereas the GPU is perfectly suited for performing massive parallel calculations."
Nvidia went on to say that by introducing the DirectX Compute in Windows 7, Microsoft is providing a huge shot in the arm for developers to make better use of the GPU for more than just graphics acceleration. Such tasks include high-quality video playback, high performance transcoding, enabling new media scenarios, and offering extended control over media libraries.
"As an example of the real world benefits of DX Compute, you will be able to use the massive parallel capabilities of the GPU to significantly reduce the time it takes to manager your media files compared with just using the CPU alone," Nvidia added.
Previous versions of Windows have included separate folders for documents, music, videos, and photos (such as Windows XP's My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos, and My Music folders). These folders made it convenient to organize and open different types of files - as long as they were stored in the appropriate folder. However, with the increasing popularity of using network shares and external hard disks for media storage, Windows users have faced challenges in file management.
Although shortcuts to additional media locations, symbolic links to other locations (introduced in Windows Vista), and changing the default location used by a user's media files have all been used to cope with the problem, the results for Windows users have been:
A lot of clicking to find media files
No easy way to see all of the media files of a particular type in different locations at the same time
Enter the new Windows 7 libraries feature. To learn how libraries make media management easier and more powerful, join us after the jump.
"The European Commission can confirm that Microsoft has proposed a consumer ballot screen as a solution to the pending antitrust case,” EU revealed in a statement.
Microsoft had been hoping EU would allow it to ship Windows without a browser. EU had agreed to this solution when bundling of Windows Media Player was at issue, but the results proved that it was just a ruse. Had EU lent its seal of approval to Microsoft’s favorite solution, the company would have found it very easy to influence OEMs.
Writing an operating system is no easy task, particularly for Microsoft. Having to design a piece of software that will maintain compatibility across a nearly infinite number of hardware configurations can be a daunting mission. It becomes even more difficult when hardware manufacturers implement new technologies, but the software lags behind.
Determined to not let that happen to Windows 7, Microsoft engineers have reportedly worked side by side with Intel to optimize support for its processors. In a posting made on the new Windows 7 partner blog, Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc highlights the results of the collaboration. “Working with Intel, Microsoft implemented a new feature called SMT parking, which provided additional support for the Windows 7 scheduler for Intel Hyper-threading Technology, enabling better performance on hyper-threaded, multi-core Intel processors.”Intel and Microsoft have also been working on optimizing boot/ shutdown/ sleep/ and resume times, which could end up giving the chipmaker a substantial edge in performance for the foreseeable future.
Intel’s rival Nvidia also posted a follow up on the partner blog outlining GPGPU functions in Windows 7, and encouraged upgraders to spring for dedicated graphics cards. Ultimately the Intel announcement is more interesting since the DX Compute found in DirectX 11 will favor both ATI and Nvidia equally and it certainly makes me worry about the growing performance gap between Intel and AMD.
Will this announcement influence your upgrade decision?
It’s official, Windows 7 is in the bag and the first boxed copies have gone out the door. OEM’s arrived in droves on Friday to pickup large bundles containing all the code and supporting documentation they will need to begin integrating Windows 7 into their upcoming hardware designs. OEM’s are typically the first Microsoft customers to receive RTM code as it often takes months to properly tweak their drivers and software to ensure maximum compatibility.
The Official Windows Blog posted pictures of the event for those who are interested. Pictures included representatives from HP, Lenovo, Asus, Acer, Dell, Sony, and Siemens all posing with their debut copies. Officially the focus of the OEM’s at this point is to ensure hardware / software compatibility, but we all know a certain amount of trialware will inevitably be tested and slipped into new machines as well. Microsoft kicked off a new initiative last year in the hopes of educating OEM’s on the danger of over bundling trialware with a new PC, lets just hope they listen.Just in case they don’t, check out our Clean Start Guide on How to decrapify any new machine.
Have you purchased a new OEM build machine recently? Have things gotten any better? Let us know what you think.
Windows 7 still isn’t officially released to the general public yet, but I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that it will be a universal hit. Users making the jump from Windows XP have a lot of advances to look forward to, and for the most part we can thank Vista. The similarities between the two OS’s are shocking, so much so that many have simply dubbed Windows 7 as “Vista done right”.
Nobody will argue that Windows 7 isn’t a huge leap forward in terms of performance, but even a $600 PC purchased today has more than enough muscle to deliver an excellent experience in Vista. The simple fact that Windows 7 will be born into a mature world full of drivers written for it’s predecessor will almost singlehandedly ensure a successful rollout. Lack of drivers if you recall, was the single largest complaint against Vista’s at launch and Microsoft even alleges that it was a huge factor in reports of it’s early instability.
"I think people will look back on Vista after the Windows 7 release and realize that there were actually a bunch of good things there" said Steve Guggenheimer, vice president of the OEM division at Microsoft, in a ChannelWeb story. "So it'll actually be interesting to see in two years what the perception is of Vista."
So with the Windows 7 launch day less than three months away, are you ready to forgive Vista?
If you're like us, you've been patiently awaiting official word on when Microsoft will make available Windows 7 RTM (Release To Manufacturing). We're not the only ones pressuring Microsoft for an answer, and thanks to a blog post by Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows Communications Manager at Microsoft, we now have some concrete dates to play with.
According to LeBlanc, ISV (Independent software vendor) and IHV (Independent hardware vendor) Partners will be able to download Windows 7 RTM from Microsoft Connect or MSDN starting on August 6th. Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified Members can snag the RTM in English through the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Portal a little later beginning August 16th (all remaining languages will be available on October 1st). If you're a Microsoft Action Pack Subscriber, you can grab your copy in English starting August 23rd, and again October 1st for all remaining languages. OEMs will receive Windows 7 RTM software images beginning about 2 days after Microsoft makes the RTM official.
Other availability dates include:
Volume License (VL) customers with an existing Software Assurance (SA) license: August 7th
IT Professionals with a TechNet Subscription: August 6th
Developers with a MSDN Subscription: August 6th
LeBlanc also went on to confirm the availability of a "Family Pack" for Windows 7, which will allow installation on up to 3 PCs, but did not say how much the package will cost.