Windows 7: Threat to Vista

Release information
Release date: Late 2009 (expected) info
Preview version: Milestone 1 (6.1.6574.1) (April 20, 2008) info
Source model: Closed source
License: Microsoft EULA
Kernel type: Hybrid Kernel

Windows 7 (formerly known as Blackcomb and Vienna) is the working name for the next major version of Microsoft Windows as the successor of Windows Vista. Microsoft has announced that it is “scoping Windows 7 development to a three-year timeframe”, and that “the specific release date will ultimately be determined by meeting the quality bar.” Windows 7 is expected to be released sometime in 2010. The client versions of Windows 7 will ship in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. A server variant, codenamed Windows Server 7, is also under development.

Microsoft is maintaining a policy of silence concerning discussion of plans and aspirations for Windows 7 as they focus on the release and marketing of Windows Vista, though some early details of various core operating system features have emerged. As a result, little is known about the feature set, though public presentations from company officials have disseminated information about some features. Leaked information from people to whom Milestone 1 (M1) of Windows 7 was shipped also provides some insight into the feature set.

Milestone 1

The first known build of Windows 7 was identified as a “Milestone 1 (M1) code drop” according to TG Daily with a version number of 6.1.6519.1. It was sent to key Microsoft partners by January 2008 in both x86 and x64 versions. Though not yet commented on by Microsoft, reviews and screenshots have been published by various sources. The M1 code drop installation requires Windows Vista with Service Pack 1, and creates a dual-boot system with Windows Vista.

On April 20, 2008, screenshots and videos of a second build of M1 were leaked with a version number of 6.1.6574.1. This build included improvements to Windows Explorer as well as a new Windows Health Center.

Later builds

According to TG Daily article of January 16, 2008, the Milestone 2 (M2) code drop was at that time scheduled for April or May of 2008. User interface appearance changes are expected to appear in later builds of Windows 7.

Milestone 3 (M3) is listed as coming in the third quarter, with the release to manufacturing in the second half of 2009. The release dates of a beta version and a release candidate are “to be determined”.

Bill Gates commented in a press conference in April 2008 that a new version [of windows] would come “in the next year or so”. According to additional clarification by Microsoft, he was only referring to availability of alpha or beta versions of Windows 7.


Desktop context menu showing the new link to the Display property window and options for Gadgets.

Desktop context menu showing the new link to the Display property window and options for Gadgets.

Windows 7 has reached the Milestone 1 (M1) stage and has been made available to key partners. According to reports sent to TG Daily, the build adds support for systems using multiple heterogeneous graphics cards and a new version of Windows Media Center. New features in Milestone 1 also reportedly include Gadgets being integrated into Windows Explorer, a Gadget for Windows Media Center, the ability to visually pin and unpin items from the Start Menu and Recycle Bin, improved media features, a new XPS Viewer, and the Calculator accessory is multi-line featuring Programmer and Statistics modes along with unit conversion.

Reports indicate that a feedback tool included in Milestone 1 lists some coming features: the ability to store Internet Explorer settings on a Windows Live account, updated versions of Paint and WordPad, and a 10 minute install process. In addition, improved network connection tools might be included.

A new feature in build 6574, Windows Health Center, allows the user to monitor all of their PC’s health problems, and concerns in one place. It allows turning User Account Control on and off, and monitoring 3rd party anti-virus programs, firewalls, etc.

In the demonstration of Windows 7 at D6, the operating system featured multi-touch, including a virtual piano program, a directions program and a more advanced paint program.


A minimalistic variation of the Windows kernel, known as MinWin, is being developed for use in Windows 7. The MinWin development efforts are aimed towards componentizing the Windows kernel and reducing the dependencies with a view to carving out the minimal set of components required to build a self-contained kernel as well as reducing the disk footprint and memory usage. MinWin takes up about 25 MB on disk and has a working set (memory usage) of 40 MB. It lacks a graphical user interface and is interfaced using a full-screen command line interface. It includes the I/O and networking subsystems. MinWin was first publicly demonstrated on October 13, 2007 by Eric Traut. The demo system included an OS image, made up of about 100 files, on which a basic HTTP server was running.

Incidentally, the name MinWin was also used earlier to refer to what is currently known as Server Core in Windows Server 2008. Both efforts are intended to consolidate and modularize the core of Windows; however, the two are quite different in implementation. With Server Core, the functionality of the OS is constrained according to server roles, and unneeded components (which will never be used as the role isn’t supported) are removed from the binary image. However, the dependencies still exist in code, and the code cannot compile without the components. In contrast, with MinWin, the dependencies are consolidated into MinWin and what is not needed is removed at the code level itself. As a result, the code compiles even without any extraneous components and builds a stripped-down self-contained OS kernel image.

In an interview with Ina Fried of Cnet’s, Steven Sinofsky described the Windows 7 kernel as a further evolution of the Windows Server 2008 kernel, itself an evolution of the Windows Vista kernel.

Methods of input

On December 11, 2007, Hilton Locke, who worked on the Tablet PC team at Microsoft reported that Windows 7 will have new touch features. An overview of the touch capabilities was demoed at the All Things Digital Conference on May 27, 2008. A video demonstrating the multi-touch capabilities was later made available on the web on the same day.

Also, Bill Gates has said that Windows 7 is also “a big step forward” for speech technology and handwriting recognition.

Virtual hard disk

On May 21, 2008, Microsoft posted a job opening for Windows 7 regarding work to implement VHD support, i.e. support for single-file containers that represent an entire hard drive including partitions, and transparently performing I/O operations on this as a typical hard drive, including boot support.

“In Windows 7, our team will be responsible for creating, mounting, performing I/O on, and dismounting VHDs (virtual hard disks) natively. Imagine being able to mount a VHD on any Windows machine, do some offline servicing and then boot from that same VHD. Or perhaps, taking an existing VHD you currently use within Virtual Server and boost performance by booting natively from it.”

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2 thoughts on “Windows 7: Threat to Vista

  1. Pingback: Windows 7 RC1 « ** Rite$h BlogZone **

  2. Computers keep evolving…. 🙂 So are all the companies to keep pace with this fast world… 😉 Cheers Ritesh… This one’s a nice piece of info…

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