Sinofsky Reviews Windows 7 Features

A year ago, Steve Sinofsky earned plaudits when he offered a sincere-sounding mea culpa over the mess left by Windows Vista. At the time, Sinofsky launched the initial beta of Windows 7 to an expectant PDC crowd. Today, Sinofsky took a tongue in cheek look back at the making of Windows 7 and provided an overview that introduced very little new information for developers.

The look back at Windows 7 included a rather hilarious video spoof, depicting some uniquely painful -- and effective -- ways to punish Windows 7 developers for flawed code. Sinofsky went on to talk about the numbers behind Windows 7 development, from the number of beta copies downloaded to the volume of error reports. While the presentation was reasonably entertaining, it offered little insight for the developer audience.

What really got the press crowd in the media room going was when the streaming presentation suddenly cut off -- twice -- just as Sinofsky kicked off a demo. The gathered correspondents instead got a static screen that said: "In respect to the Intellectual Property being demonstrated on stage, we are temporarily suspending demo media. Thank you for your patience."

It was a deliciously absurd moment that will no doubt produce an avalanche of snark.

Sinfosky next dropped into some dev-relevant topics. Sinofsky discussed performance-improving features of Windows 7 like parallel driver loading and Trigger Start Services, and engaged in a bit of developer evangelism as he urged people to tap the new capabilities of Windows 7.

The DirectX 11 demo was enlightening, as it showed the power of discreet graphics processing units (GPU) to enable extremely high-fidelity video and 3D graphics, as well as complex computation. DX11, according to Sinofsky, can render ten times the number of polygons and triangles that DX 10 can. Also shown was a stellar simulation of 20,000 stars that consumed 702 gigaflops (floating point operations per second) on a $400 graphics card. Sinofsky singled out simulations, financial apps and meteorology as apps that can tap the extreme floating point computing power of GPU co-processors.

Sinofsky moved next to illustrating the benefits of the sensor capabilities of Windows 7, showing how a Dell PC activates when approach and a digital ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts screen brightness based on ambient lighting.

SInofsky next moved onto discussing the Ribbon UI, which Microsoft has been promoting for years now. The presenter shows the latest version of WinZip with the Ribbon UI and an awareness of Windows 7's default libraries. The touch screen interface also allows flicking through applications and Web pages.

Internet Explorer 9 First Look

The Internet Explorer portion stressed heavily Microsoft's commitment to standards, before Sinofsky launched into a discussion of performance.

"We are about 3 weeks into the Internet Explorer 9 project, as we just shipped Windows 7," said Sinofsky.

He said IE9 is still lagging in the ACID 3 compatibility benchmark, but said his team is committed to improving the results there. He showed IE8 producing an ACID 3 score of 20, while the current iteration of IE9 scored 32.

Sinofsky also dropped into the issue of JavaScript performance -- a topic made relevant by open source browser makers' deployment of accelerated JavaScript rendering engines. WebKit.org SunSpider benchmarking scores showed IE9 producing JavaScript performance that is much closer to Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome than IE8.

Sinofsky said IE9 had made great strides in CSS3 compliance, scoring 762 out of 768 on the compatibility test.

Significantly, IE9 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 IE9, as well as smoother rendering of animated objects and text under IE9. A map scrolling demo produced frame rate increases from about 13 fps under standard rendering to nearly 80 fps when rendered with DirectX. The capabilities, Sinofsky emphasized, required no changes to published sites.

Sinofsky finished with a call to action, urging developers to support the new features in Windows 7.

About the Author

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

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