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The MinWin Meme

A few months back, conventional wisdom said that Microsoft had big plans afoot for the next version of the Windows client after Vista, known currently as Windows 7.

Much of that expectation arose not from whisper releases or leaks out of the Redmond campus, but rather from an innocuous technical presentation given by Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Eric Traut at the University of Illinois. (You can view the portion touching on Windows 7 at the I Started Something blog.)

In the presentation, Traut spent a few minutes demoing Windows 7 to the audience and referred to the MinWin kernel, the bare-bones, stripped-down, core OS code base that industry watchers think may end up driving a new generation of Windows development. At points, Traut seemed to imply that MinWin is to be the core of Windows 7 itself and that it's an internal project not for public release. In short, he seemed to contradict himself.

"We created what we call MinWin. This is an internal only -- you won't see us productizing this, but you can imagine this being used as the basis for products in the future," Traut said, before launching a new window on screen. "This is the Windows 7 source code base. It's about 25 megs on disk. Compare that to the about 4 gigs on disk that the full Windows Vista takes up."

That's all it took. Bloggers and Microsoft watchers speculated that Windows 7 would feature a radically streamlined core. The implication was that the next OS waypoint would be a sharp departure from the legacy established by Windows 2000/XP/Vista.

The thing is, Traut never said -- or intended to say -- anything of the sort. The kernel project known as MinWin, which does seem designed to undo Vista's vast and lumbering code base, won't be in Windows 7. The next client OS out of Microsoft, we've recently learned, will be very much based on a refined Vista core, albeit with enhanced mobile support and aggressive integration with Microsoft's Windows Live online services.

But Traut's presentation and the misdirected meme it launched are a telling preview of what's to come in the arena of Windows and Windows Live development.

As Mary Jo Foley reported in our May 15 issue, Windows is being developed under strict radio silence. And that means an army of bloggers, reporters and pundits will be watching every cough and twitch out of Redmond in an effort to glean where the company is going next. And I think we can expect a lot of false alarms as a result.

What do you think of Microsoft's decision to lock down information about Windows and Live development? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 05/29/2008

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