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WinHEC: Keynote Spotlights Windows 7 Device Connectivity

Microsoft's Steve Sinofsky started WinHEC by telling developers how Windows 7 will make it easier to integrate device drivers and provide an improved user experience.

Microsoft kicked off its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Los Angeles today with a keynote by Windows 7 heads Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan, who told the developer audience how Windows 7 will make it easier to integrate device drivers and provide an improved user experience.

DeVaan, Microsoft's senior vice president for the Windows Core Operating System Division, noted some lessons learned with Vista, which stumbled early out of the gate largely due to slow driver support by vendors. Today, more than 90 percent of all PCs have all of the drivers they need for Vista, he said.

Based on vendor feedback, the Windows 7 team is focusing on ecosystem relevance, performance and delivering reliable, high-quality pre-release builds to its partners, DeVaan said.

"We want you to believe us on our shipping dates," he added.

Microsoft is also proceeding with the concept that if it works in Vista, it should work in Windows 7. The Windows 7 team is focusing on scenarios that are important to people, DeVaan said, including reliability, boot times and power consumption.

Windows 7 uses parallel processing power to boot several devices at once. It can start services based on demand in order to lower memory and I/O pressures, DeVaan said.

Windows 7, in contrast to Vista, uses a small fixed set of memory that doesn't expand as multiple programs are opened. A demo during the keynote compared Vista with Windows 7, showing how Vista's memory allocation got tapped out as more than 70 programs were opened on a laptop, while Windows 7 remained unaffected. DeVaan said that "we use less memory, but we have a faster memory system on Windows 7."

The demo was conducted live on stage by Mike Angiulo, general manager of Windows planning and PC ecosystem.

Also shown on stage was superior battery performance when using Windows 7. The demo showed that Windows 7 enabled two hours more power over Vista when both operating systems were run on comparable laptops side by side. Microsoft provides a "Power Config Tool" that can help developers estimate power consumption.

DeVaan said that laptop battery life is "really important" to customers, based on user feedback and laptop battery sales.

Device power use is lowered in Windows 7 in some cases. Angiulo said that wireless plug-in devices can use less power with Windows 7 as you don't have to use 100 percent of the power for the device to connect with a signal.

Microsoft is also working to speed the shutdown time in Windows 7. For some users of Vista, shutdown time has been an issue, with times of six to seven minutes being reported. Microsoft is providing a tool in Windows 7 that will report how long it takes for particular services to shut down. Angiulo demonstrated how services can be forced to shut down in Windows 7, thus speeding up overall system shutdown

DeVaan said a key trend that Microsoft is noticing, based on its telemetry reports, is that the use of 64-bit systems is increasing. "We have achieved the tipping point in 64-bit adoption," he said, noting an increasing preference for 64-bit machines among U.S. consumers.

DeVaan noted several resources for Windows 7 developers. The Windows Vista Compatibility Center can be used to check driver and 64-bit compatibility. Microsoft also provides a Hardware Developer Central portal, a one-stop shop to get drivers to support Windows 7. There is also a Winqual site that provides telemetry tools for measuring performance quality.

Sinofsky, Microsoft's senior vice president of Windows and the Windows Live Engineering Group, emphasized the "end-to-end experience" with Windows 7 for consumers users. Microsoft also aims "to provide a rich platform for new technologies" with the new operating system. He noted Microsoft's touch interface as an important element in this strategy.

"This [touch] is becoming a big opportunity for everybody," Sinofsky said.

Angiulo demonstrated a Device and Printer function in Windows 7 that makes device interconnection much easier for users. He plugged in devices to a laptop, and Windows 7 showed a photo-realistic image of the recognized device. It is possible to distinguish multiple thumb drives by images in Windows 7, so you don't make a mistake when unmounting them.

Adding devices requires plugging them in, typing a PIN and hitting Enter. The device-enabling feature in Windows 7 is called "Rally," which is a new networking technology. Sinofsky noted that Microsoft is making it easier for vendors to provide customized experiences for users of their devices on Windows 7. It doesn't require a firmware or driver update to enable these experiences, he added.

Sensor development was also emphasized during the keynote address. Microsoft is giving away sensor development kits at WinHEC while they last. Sinofsky noted that touch sensor hardware is currently being shipped.

Windows 7 is currently available as a "developer-only" pre-beta. A full beta of Windows 7 is expected to ship in the "early phase of next year," Sinofsky said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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