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Wonking on Windows

We're taking a close, hands-on look at the Windows 7 client operating system for an upcoming issue, and as part of that effort I started talking with developers about their impressions of the 6801 pre-beta build that was distributed at the 2008 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles last month.

If one theme emerged from my discussions with attendees at PDC and after, it's that Microsoft seems to have delivered a remarkably stable preview product. Anyone who recalls the rough-and-tumble days of the Windows Vista development cycle knows this is a huge win for a group that just three years ago was plagued by ugly delays, buggy code and redacted features.

Stephen Chapman should know. As the author of the UX Evangelist blog, Stephen has been all over the Windows 7 dev cycle and is currently running the pre-beta build on a desktop and a laptop PC.

"Windows 7 performs beautifully in both of those environments, which is excellent news for people with low-end computers who worried about how Windows Vista would perform on their machines," Chapman told me in an e-mail exchange earlier today.

Chapman has his share of complaints, including issues with Internet Explorer 8 performance and problems with some drivers being properly recognized by the OS. But he said the biggest problem facing Windows 7 could be the perception that it's little more than a "dot" release to Vista. Call it Vista-dot-one.

Or don't. Chapman said the new Windows 7 taskbar offers a ton of value to developers looking for ways to better expose their apps on the Windows desktop. More important is the inclusion of .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, which Chapman pointed out includes new ADO.NET and ASP.NET data services and assemblies, as well as improved WPF graphics performance. The updated .NET code certainly adds to Windows 7's dev appeal.

Chapman is enthusiastic about Windows 7. More enthusiastic, certainly, than I am, and I'm generally quite impressed with what I've seen to date. But my positive response has been more about what Microsoft didn't do this time around -- specifically, over-reach on its dev efforts -- than what it did. I honestly like that people are grumbling about Windows 7 being a point release. And I outright love the fact that this pre-beta build is proving fairly stable.

Have you worked with the pre-beta build of Windows 7? Do you think Microsoft didn't go far enough in advancing its latest client OS? E-mail me at

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/13/2008 at 1:15 PM

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