PDC: Microsoft's Sinofsky Reviews Windows 7, Previews IE 9

A year ago, at the 2008 Professional Developers Conference (PDC), Steven Sinofsky earned plaudits when he offered a mea culpa for the mess left by Windows Vista. At the time, the president of Microsoft's Windows Division had been giving a demo of Windows 7 to an expectant PDC08 crowd.

On Wednesday at PDC09, Sinofsky took a tongue-in-cheek look at the making of Windows 7 that included a humorous video depicting some uniquely painful -- and effective -- ways to punish Windows 7 developers for flawed code. Sinofsky then went on to talk about the numbers behind Windows 7 development, from the number of beta copies downloaded to the volume of error reports.

Sinofsky also discussed Windows 7's performance-improving features like parallel driver loading and Trigger Start Services, and engaged in a bit of developer evangelism as he urged people to tap the new operating system's capabilities.

Sinofsky then illustrated Windows 7's sensor capabilities, showing how a Dell PC can activate when approached, and how a digital ambient light sensor can adjust screen brightness automatically based on ambient lighting.

He also gave a demonstration of DirectX 11, which was enlightening as it showed the power of discreet graphics processing units (GPU) to enable extremely high-fidelity video and 3-D graphics, as well as complex computation. According to Sinofsky, DX 11 can render 10 times the number of polygons and triangles that DX 10 can. Also shown was a simulation of 20,000 stars that consumed 702 gigaflops (floating point operations per second) on a $400 graphics card.

Sinofsky's presentation also included a discussion of the ribbon user interface (UI), which Microsoft has been promoting for years. He showed the latest version of WinZip with the ribbon UI and an awareness of Windows 7's default libraries. The touchscreen interface also allows users to flick through applications and Web pages.

First Look at Internet Explorer 9
"We are about three weeks into the Internet Explorer 9 project, as we just shipped Windows 7," Sinofsky said.

He said IE 9 is still lagging in the ACID 3 compatibility benchmark, but said his team is committed to improving the browser's results. He showed IE 8 producing an ACID 3 score of 20, while the current iteration of IE 9 scored 32.

Sinofsky also delved into the issue of the browser's JavaScript performance, a topic made relevant by open source browser makers' deployment of accelerated JavaScript rendering engines. SunSpider benchmarking scores showed IE 9 producing JavaScript performance that is much closer to Firefox, Opera and Chrome than IE 8.

Sinofsky said IE 9 has made great strides in CSS3 compliance, scoring 762 out of 768 on the compatibility test.

Significantly, IE 9 will tap into the accelerated hardware features of Windows 7 PCs via the DirectX graphics subsystem. Sinofsky displayed the enhanced clarity of rendered text under IE 9, as well as smoother rendering of animated objects. A map-scrolling demo produced frame rate increases from about 13 frames per second under standard rendering to nearly 80 frames per second when rendered with DirectX. The capabilities, Sinofsky emphasized, required no changes to published sites.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.


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