In the latest indication that Windows Vista's not one of Redmond's greatest hits, Windows XP (aka "The operating system that will not die") has won another reprieve. Friday, Microsoft confirmed rumors that OEMs bundling Windows Vista Ultimate or Vista Business can continue to order media for downgrades to Windows XP Professional until July 31, 2009 . Meaning, for those paying attention, that Harry Potter could get a Vista system downgraded to Windows XP for his birthday. Previously, the last day for downgrade media was going to be January 31, 2009. 1-31-2009 remains the deadline for system builders (aka "the corner computer store") to buy Windows XP licenses for their systems.
As an OEM product, Windows XP won't quite make it to Windows 7's anticipated release date of January 2010, but it will get closer than anyone could have guessed when it was released in October 2001.
So, what say you? Have you exercised your downgrade rights to send a Vista machine back to XP land? Any tips or tricks to consider? Hit the jump for your chance to sound off.
Want to be one of the first to spend some hands-on time with Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7? Depending on how determined you are, you can have that chance. Denise Begley, a marketing manager for Microsoft, writes on her MSDN blog pre-beta builds of Windows 7 will be given away to keynote attendees at this year's Professional Development Conference (PDC). Steven Sinofsky, senior VP for Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, will deliver the keynote on Tuesday, October 28.
Not only will you have to be time-committed to get your hands on Windows 7, but be prepared for a hefty monetary investment too. Full conference (October 27 through 30) registration runs a hefty $2,395, and you can tack on another $400 if you want to attend the pre-conference on October 26th.
CNet's Ina Fried reports that Microsoft has decided to remove Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Mail from Windows 7. Given the fact that Microsoft continues to upgrade its Live replacements for Photo Gallery and Mail, and added Movie Maker to the Live family, as we reported last week, this move seems to make a lot of sense.
As someone who's been recommending that Windows Vista users replace Windows Photo Gallery with Windows Live Photo Gallery ever since Live Photo Gallery was launched, I think that stripping Windows of utilities that only some people will use makes plenty of sense. Here's why:
1. Faster development of operating system releases. As Windows Live general manager Brian Hall told Fried, "It [this decision]makes it [Windows 7] much cleaner."
2. Fewer worries about antitrust actions. Lawsuits by the EU forced Microsoft to distribute EU-specific versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista that are missing Windows Media Player. By dropping other multimedia features, Microsoft makes Windows 7 even less appealing as a lawsuit target.
3. New partnership opportunities. According to Hall,"We can do things with specific partners to enable really great experiences that might be hard in Windows." We might see Windows 7+Adobe, Windows 7+Corel, or Windows 7+open source bundles from various OEMs.
4. Fewer opportunities for compatibility problems. As anyone who has ever wrestled with Windows Vista multimedia tools being broken by installing third-party tools (I recommend the freeware Vista Codec Package, available at http://shark007.net, if you can't burn CDs or DVDs in Windows Vista anymore after installing a third-party DVD burner), the possibility of reducing the chances of a "codec war" or other compatibility problems is a welcome one.
So, what do you think? Do you like the idea of choosing your favorite free or commercial photo, video, and email clients right from the start, or do you prefer the current method? Are you more likely to buy a preinstalled version of Windows 7 if it had a well-integrated third-party media and email software bundle, or do you prefer to create your own "best of breed" combination? Do you have a horror story of third-party apps and Windows butting heads? Tell them now before Windows 7 does away with them. Hit the jump for your chance.
There's been much ballywho surrounding Windows 7, Microsoft's anticipated successor to Vista, and we've covered much of it right here on MaximumPC.com. From what is known, Microsoft appears to be working closely with system vendors to ensure Windows 7 enjoys a smooth rollout among preconfigured systems, and to avoid third-party drivers giving the new OS a bad rap in similar fashion to how the software maker suggests early Nvidia drivers did to Vista. But it now looks like users will have to wait until December before spending some hands-on time with Windows 7 beta 1.
In the meantime, a pair of videos showing off two features of the new OS have begun making the rounds. The first one shows the Windows 7 Start menu, which looks no different than Vista's. However, with the mouse pointer hovered over the icon, a search box appears just above it in the video.
The second clip showcases Microsoft's redesigned Calculator application. You can choose from four modes - Standard, Scientific, Programmer, and Statistics - and copy and paste values. A new Options menu brings more functionality to the table, such as quickly calculating specific dates and breaking them down in to years, months, weeks, and days. Templates and unit conversion are also included, giving geeks with a caculator fetish something to salivate over.
Check out the clips and hit the jump to let us know what you think.
Screenshots have been appearing all over the net of Windows 7 M3 Build 6780, and one criticism seems to float to the top every time. Users are disappointed that the UI looks exactly like Vista. This reaction although true, should be taken with a grain of salt. Microsoft has a very storied history of leaving user interface tweaks to the very end for a good reason. Popular GUI elements are always in a state of flux among fickle users. Core improvements to the kernel on the other hand, are something that can be worked on at any time while leaving the final layer of Chrome to the very end. A full layout of screen shots of M3 (milestone 3) were posted at thinknext.net and is likely going to be similar to the version Microsoft will show at its upcoming PDC in October. One trend that we can identify now however is the inclusion of the ribbon interface from Office 2007 into core applications like Paint and WordPad. Other than this, things don’t look a whole lot different. Love it or hate it, the ribbon UI seems to be the future of Microsoft applications and is likely to become a trademark of the OS. The latest builds of Windows 7 include Internet Explorer 8 and presumably, given the lengthy turnaround on IE releases, will be the final version included in Windows 7. Currently the OS seems to remain on track for its scheduled launch somewhere between mid 2009 and early 2010. This timetable seems reasonable given that ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley expressed belief that Windows 7 will enter beta 1 by December of this year. Want to see the evolution of the paint UI from Windows 98 to Windows 7 so far? Hit the jump to see the side by side comparisons.
It's not a sports score, but it might be even more important to tech fans: Windows 7, Milestone 3 is the current progress "score" for Windows 7, the next generation of Windows (milestones are internal test builds used to develop and debug features before beta testing begins).
So, what's inside W7M3 (also known as Build 6780)?
Castles, a simplified version of domain control designed for home networks but pulled from Windows Vista before it went out the door, is in Windows 7 but is now called Home Groups.
PowerShell v2, aka Graphical Console, is also in the mix for scripting fans (a preview for XP and Vista users is available now).
WordPad and Paint no longer look like leftovers from Windows 3.1 - they're getting a cleaned-up version of the ribbon UI introduced in Office 2007. Here's more about what's new and different. What's the big deal? According to Softpedia, the so-called Fluent/Ribbon interface is the future of Windows and Windows apps.
It looks as if the first formal beta of Windows 7 will be launched before the end of the year, with some observers speculating that Windows 7 might be available sometime between June and September 2009. So, what do you think?
Do you like the foretaste of W7's user interface? Are you looking forward to Windows 7, or do you suspect, as InfoWorld's Randall C. Kennedy opines, that "it's doomed to failure?" Hit the jump for your chance to comment.
The report that cites unnamed sources – no surprises – further claims that Microsoft has supplied some of its most intimate customers and partners with alpha builds of the OS designated M1 and M2 (M stands for milestone); M3 is in the works per the sources. A beta release by the end of this year will almost ensure the release of Windows 7 in late 2009 or early 2010; therefore, this delay won’t have a huge impact on Windows 7 release plans.
Face it, activation is a failure. For power users who frequently upgrade their PCs, dialing in to reactivate the OS is beyond irritating. Instead, Microsoft must come up with a novel way to punish pirates without annoying its paying customers. (May we suggest displaying massive popup ads in pirate copies of Windows?) For legitimate customers, a realistic home-licensing program—buy one copy at full price, get four more upgrades for $50 to $100 each—would go a long way toward creating goodwill.
As the system [running Windows Vista SP1] arrived to us, the off-the-shelf configuration had a ~45 second boot time. Performing a clean install of Vista SP1 on the same system produced a consistent ~23 second boot time. Of course, being a clean install, there were many fewer processes, services and a slightly different set of drivers (mostly the versions were different). However, we were able to take the off-the-shelf configuration and optimize it to produce a consistent boot time of ~21 seconds, ~2 seconds faster than the clean install because some driver/BIOS changes could be made in the optimized configuration.
Fortin identifies a number of design goals for Windows 7 to help it achieve a high percentage of "very good" boot times (under 15 seconds), including:
Reducing the number of system services
Reducing the demand that system services make on CPU, disk, and memory resources
Device and driver optimization
Improving parallelism of driver initialization (enabling multiple drivers to be installed at the same time)
Faster prefeching optimized for both traditional and SSD hard disks
Fortin's comments suggest that Microsoft is working very closely with system vendors to help assure that Windows 7 works well in typical preconfigured systems. Hopefully, Microsoft has learned a lot from the vast difference in performance between clean installs of Windows Vista and systems cluttered with OEM products not optimized for Vista.
Don't want to wait for Windows 7 to get faster boot times? Fortin also discusses analyzing systems with the Windows Performance Toolkit for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, available here.
How do you define fast boot time? When is a system "ready to go?" Give us your thoughts after the jump.
The Engineering Windows 7 (aka "e7") blog at MSDN is providing us with a useful look at how the performance of Windows 7 is being analyzed in this week's blog post. So, what are the major subsystems being analyzed? Some of them include:
Memory usage: trying to balance time versus space (disk, memory)
CPU utilization: keep it as low as possible to improve multi-user scenarios and reduce power consumption
Disk I/O: reading, writing, paging performance for both traditional and solid-state drives
Boot, Shutdown, Standby/Resume: working with system vendors to make these operations as fast as possible
Base system: balancing "on-demand" loading of resources with the need to keep performance at as high a level as possible
Disk footprint: working with the space demands of device drivers, help system, optional components, diagnostics, and logging information
To learn more about how Microsoft is performance-testing Windows 7, and how your comments can help shape Windows 7, join us after the jump.