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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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February 26, 2009 12:32 PM

Filling in more details on the Windows Vista, Windows 7 maps

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Two more pieces of the Windows puzzle fell into place yesterday and today. Microsoft announced it's nearing completion of Windows Vista Service Pack 2, which went out in near-final form to technical testers yesterday. And this morning, the company described some of the changes it's making in Windows 7 as a result of feedback from people who have tested an early version of that program -- all of which made a presentation today by Mike Cherry, a Windows expert at Directions on Microsoft, particularly relevant. Cherry, like many analysts, thinks Microsoft is on track to release Windows 7 ahead of schedule.

First, a bit more on these announcements:

The release candidate of Vista SP2 -- which is coming out simultaneously with SP2 for Windows Server 2008 -- has "support for new types of hardware and emerging standards," according to Microsoft's Windows Vista Team blog. Also, the company "expect[s] SP2 to continue the security benefits of both products and simplify deployment for our customers."

On the Windows 7 front, a lengthy post went up on the official Engineering 7 blog giving what Windows boss Steven Sinofsky described as "a sampling of some of the more visible changes" being made as a result of feedback from the Windows 7 beta that began in January. If you're heavy into Windows, you'll want to read the whole thing, which covers 36 specific items that will be changed in the forthcoming Windows 7 release candidate. Here's a sampling of the sampling:

Under the category of "Desktop Experience," Microsoft took feedback from testers who said "the needy state" -- windows that require a user's attention for things such as reminders and open dialogue boxes -- had become too subtle in the new Windows 7 taskbar.

"We've made three changes that should address the issue," wrote Chaitanya Sareen of the Windows team. "First, we changed the flashing animation curve to make it more noticeable (from a sine to a sawtooth wave). Second, we used a bolder orange color. Finally, we wanted to double the number of flashes which is currently set to three. As a nod to Windows 7, we decided to go with seven flashes instead."

In the Control Panel category, Microsoft has tweaked an auto-lock function, which allows IT administrators to automatically lock a PC after a set period of inactivity. In the beta version, a screen-saver had to be chosen to do this. Not any more.

Internet radio playback in Windows Media Player has been changed to be more "reliable and resilient." Sareen credited "the broad scale of usage across so many customers and network topologies and our telemetry in the Beta" for helping Microsoft understand this issue.

Cherry, a Directions analyst who spent more than 10 years at Microsoft before joining the independent Kirkland research firm, said he thinks Windows 7 will certainly ship on Microsoft's stated schedule -- three years after the general availability of Windows Vista, meaning no later than January 2010.

The changes announced today struck him as small and minor.

"I don't see anything in the changes that they're discussing on the blogs today as likely to delay the schedule of [Windows 7]," he said. "This is the first time with a Windows client release in recent memory that I've actually been optimistic. ... I see no reason why they couldn't pull the release forward."

How early is the question. Some expect it to be in PC makers' hands in time for pre-installation on computers for back-to-school sales. That strikes Cherry as possibly too fast.

"But, I think if things continue well, we could see it early enough to hit the holiday season," he said.

He said Microsoft still will not release Windows 7 until it is "solid, reliable and performs the way that they want to."

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