The Five Pillars of Windows 7 (part 1 of 5)

da AeroXperience

This posting is provided “as is” with no warranties, and confers no rights. All of the information herein could easily be right, wrong, up, down, in, out, backwards, forwards, heavily dated, or totally false. You can interpret it as you wish, or not interpret it at all. Also, in case you haven’t figured it out, all of this is non-static and heavily subject to change.

The old idea where Microsoft bases an operating system on central pillars? It’s back, and with a complete refocus of priorities. Looking back, the original pillars of Longhorn were Avalon (WPF), Indigo (WCF), and WinFS, as well as the pseudo-pillar which was referred to as “Fundamentals.”

No longer does Microsoft’s basis for an operating system focus on key architectural developments such as the various frameworks of yore. Now, it seems, pillars are at least tentatively being redefined as design and usability concepts upon which to build the operating system.

Over the next five days, I’m going to spend some time on AeroXP presenting to you the separate pillars upon which the Windows 7 experience (and indeed, Windows 7 as a whole) will be built. What you’ll see are the five pillars of Windows 7 and the specific scenarios which the Windows team plans to enhance. Wherever possible, I’ll enhance the scenario depictions with visual aids (read: screenshots). The first pillar is after the jump.
Pillar One: Specialized for Laptops

To put it simply, Microsoft is looking to simplify the experience the average user has with Windows on a laptop. Vista came with a number of improvements over XP for laptops (most notably wireless connections) and a number of flaws (battery life). Is it a surprise that they’d task themselves with improving some of these usage scenarios even more?

  • Data security is as obvious as it sounds, and then some. Beyond simply securing data, one current aim is to secure data in such a way that if, hypothetically speaking, a file were to be moved outside the scope of a domain to which it is secured, the file would still only be readable to authorized users. No specifics here, but if I’m to give a prediction, I’d say that some sort of authentication (and encryption, if necessary) system will be employed within the file system for the portable media.
  • Responsiveness is another target. In Vista, SuperFetch helps frequently used applications load much faster than applications which are used only occasionally by preloading the frequently used applications into RAM. The target now seems to be to broaden that (admittedly rare) snappiness in Windows Vista to other experiences such as web browsing, media applications, and the overall Windows Experience.
  • Touch and Tablet usability will split the focus away from a solely mouse-and-keyboard experience to a combination of m/k and touc/gestures. User Interface changes such as larger touch targets (larger taskbar, taskbar buttons, and start menu perhaps) as well as improved handwriting accuracy are two of the focal points for this particular scenario. What you heard about Microsoft bringing Surface components into Windows 7 is spot-on; this is where Surface research may have its biggest influence.
  • Wireless Connectivity improvements will focus on Windows Vista’s already outstanding Wi-Fi model and make it more reliable and even easier to use/implement. No specifics here, but it will likely be tweaked to provide the seamless transitions emphasized by the next scenario.
  • Working on Demand emphasizes simultaneous access to the internet, local, work, and home resources without interruption for more time spent working and playing as opposed to preparing to work and play. Heavy use of wireless connections such as WiMAX and 3G while roaming and Wi-Fi while local serve as a reasonable expectation, so expect your mobile carriers to start jacking up their prices to match!
  • Power Management is perhaps the toughest task for the Windows 7 team, as it encompasses all of the pillars with a focus on maximizing hardware efficiency. This will likely be implemented in conjunction with energy efficient hardware specifically designed for Laptops or mobile usage, such as the low voltage processor lines from Intel.

Tomorrow’s pillar will be less localized to the client machine itself than this first pillar. Keep an eye out for the second in this series at around the same time.