Q: Is Microsoft working on an operating system after Windows Vista?
A: Yes. The next client version of Windows was originally codenamed "Blackcomb," though the company renamed it to "Windows Vienna" in early 2006 and to "Windows Seven" or "Windows 7" more recently.
Q: Why Windows 7?
Since Windows Vista is really Windows 6.0, Windows 7 will presumably be version 7.0.
Q: Is Windows 7 the final name?
No. Like Vienna, Windows 7 is just a codename and will likely change prior to the OS' official release.
Q: I heard that Windows Vista will be the last major OS release from Microsoft. Is that true?
A: No. Windows-based PCs will continue to form the center of our digital lifestyles, and as Microsoft executives have noted in recent days, there are still plenty of areas in which Microsoft can improve Windows. Some obvious examples include voice recognition and storage.
Q: So is Windows 7 going to be a major Windows version?
A: This one is complicated. Windows Vista was a major release, and Microsoft is positioning Windows 7 as a major release as well. However, the language Microsoft uses to describe the technical underpinnings of the Windows 7 suggest that this product will in fact be a minor release, or what the Windows Server team would have called an interim, or R2 ("release 2" release. Microsoft corporate vice president Steven Sinofsky described it this way: "[We are not going to] introduce additional [in]compatibilities, particularly in the driver
model. Windows Vista was about improving those things ... Memory management, networking, process management, all of the security hardening, all of those things will carry forth, and maintain the compatibility with applications that people expect. Windows Vista established a very solid foundation, a multiyear foundation, particularly on subsystems like graphics and audio and storage and things like that, and Windows 7--and then Windows Server 2008 built on that foundation, and Windows 7 will continue to build on that foundation as well."
Q: When will Windows 7 ship?
A: Microsoft currently plans to ship Windows 7 by early 2010, about three years after Vista.
Q: What features will be included in Windows 7?
A: Microsoft has publicly committed to only one feature for Windows 7--pervasive multi-touch (see my post about this) and the company is currently still deciding what this next Windows release will look like. We do know a few other things about Windows 7, however: It will include a new version of Windows Explorer that is being built by the same team that designed the Ribbon user interface in Office 2007. It will likely include some form of the "Hypervisor" (Windows Virtualization) technologies that will ship shortly after Windows Server 2008. It will also likely include the WinFS (Windows Future Storage) technologies, though they won't be packaged or branded as WinFS. Microsoft says it might also make a subscription-based version of the OS available to consumers, but that's still in flux.
Q: That's it?
A: Yes, but remember it's early yet and Microsoft is being very secretive about future Windows versions. However, the company has publicly issued a bit of information about the broad capabilities it intends to include in Windows 7. This information comes from a publicly-available Microsoft slide deck:
Easier. Windows 7 will make it easier for users to find and use information. Local, network and Internet search functionality will converge. Intuitive user experiences will be further advanced. Automated application provisioning and cross-application data transparency will be integrated.
More secure. Windows 7 will include improved security and legislative compliance functionality. Data protection and management will be extended to peripheral devices. Windows 7 will advance role-based computing scenarios and user-account management, and bridge the inherent conflicts between data protection and robust collaboration. It will also enable enterprise-wide data protection and permissions.
Better connected. Windows 7 will further enable the mobile workforce. It will deliver anywhere, anytime, any device access to data and applications. It will enable a robust ad-hoc collaboration experience. Wireless connectivity, management and security functionality will be expanded. The performance and functionality of current and emerging mobile hardware will be optimized. The multiple device sync, management and data protection capabilities in Windows will be extended. Finally, Windows 7 will enable flexible computing infrastructures including rich, thin and network-centric models.
Lower cost. Windows 7 will help businesses optimize their desktop infrastructure. It will enable seamless OS, application and data migration, and simplified PC provisioning and upgrading. It will further efforts towards non-disruptive application updating and patching. Windows 7 will include improved hardware- and software-based virtualization experiences. And it will expand the PC self-help and IT Pro problem resolution diagnostics in Windows.
Q: Will Windows 7 be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions like Vista?
A: Though I had expected Windows 7 to ship only in 64-bit versions, Microsoft now says it will be the final Windows version to ship in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions