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November 5, 2008 9:00 AM

WinHEC: Sinofsky, DeVaan keynotes cover details of Windows 7

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft Windows engineering chiefs Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan are set to take the stage at WinHEC in Los Angeles right now to tell hardware makers what they can expect from Windows 7. You can access their keynote speech live via Web cast here. At least 1,500 people are expected at the conference.

I spoke yesterday with Jeff Price, senior director in the Windows Product Management Group, to get a preview of this morning's presentation.

Price said the key message will follow closely with the company's Windows 7 presentation to software developers last week.

The executives will explain how Microsoft has learned from its experience with Windows Vista to improve that product and Windows 7. Price pointed in particular to the telemetry data that Vista users can opt-in to share with Microsoft. The system automatically collects details such as what features are used and problems encountered in Windows and third-party software and hardware. In 2007, 8.5 million users opted in providing data on 300 million Windows sessions, Price said. That data is also provided to hardware makers so they can make improvements to their systems, too.

The architectural changes made to the core of Windows Vista, meant to improve security and manageability, will not be altered in Windows 7, Price said, meaning hardware and software products built to work with Vista should also work with Windows 7.

Price said Microsoft will focus on three features of Windows 7 that executives think will be particularly appealing to hardware makers:

Device stage: This new interface for connecting and managing devices such as cellphones, printers, portable media players and cameras will centralize tasks like transferring data, updating settings, adding ringtones and other features.

Hardware makers will be able to program the device stage to be specific to their device with branding, photos and a set of menus that exposes all of the device's features, Price said.

Nokia, Cannon, Sony, Epson and H-P are some of the hardware makers already supporting it, he said.

Windows touch: Windows 7 will allow people to manipulate windows and documents by touching the screen, assuming they have hardware that supports this new natural user interface. Price said existing applications will be able to take advantage of touch because Microsoft is building it in to existing mouse commands. Microsoft expects hardware and software to be built to take advantage of this feature.

Mobile broadband: Windows 7 will have a consistent way for 3G network providers and modem manufacturers to present access to mobile broadband on Windows laptops. Mobile broadband networking will appear and be managed in the same way as other networking options such as WiFi.

DeVaan is also expected to provide details on how the company is improving the fundamentals of Windows, such as performance and security. Already, the company has worked with OEMs, using the telemetry data from Vista, to fine-tune systems for faster boot and shut-down times.

Price said this morning's presentations will not include specific hardware requirements for Windows 7. But Microsoft is committed to making Windows 7 at least as fast and memory efficient as Windows Vista SP1 on similar machines, he said.

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