FAQ: What we know about Windows 7

Microsoft's talking -- a little -- about Vista's replacement

This week, Microsoft went on a 24-hour marketing blitz to talk up the next version of Windows, simply called "Windows 7" for now.

Although some of what Microsoft's executives and spokespeople had to say was how much they weren't going to say and why, a few informational dribs and drabs have worked loose from Redmond.

What, exactly, do we know about Windows 7, the successor to Vista -- the operating system that if not troubled then at least, as Gartner analyst Michael Silver puts it, carrying " a lot of perception issues?"

Not a lot. Certainly not nearly enough for some of those constituencies thirstiest for details. But here's what we do know, or at least know because Microsoft's said it's so.

When will Windows 7 be released?

Depends on who's talking, apparently. Early Tuesday, two Microsoft executives, Chris Flores, a director with the Windows Client communications team, and Steve Sinofsky, the senior vice president who heads Windows development, both pegged the release of the Vista follow-on as early 2010.

"We're happy to report that we're still on track to ship approximately three years after the general availability of Windows Vista," said Flores in an entry on a company blog.

"[We] will continue to say that the next release of Windows, Windows 7, is about three years after the general availability of Windows Vista," Sinofsky told News.com that same morning.

Tuesday night, however, another company executive -- the one who heads the org chart, in fact -- said different. At the Wall Street Journal 's All Things Digital conference, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, put Windows 7's ship date as "late 2009."

The spread between early 2010, which would be the "three years after the general availability of Vista" -- that OS went into general distribution at the end of January 2007 -- and "late 2009" may not sound significant, but only a few months separated Vista's actual release from an earlier date that would have meant the operating system made it into computers in time for those PCs to sell during the 2006 holiday season.

What will Windows 7 be like?

Under the hood, a lot like Vista, according to the tidbits that Microsoft tossed out this week.

Flores was almost expansive on the subject, and noted that Windows 7 would "carry forward" the "long-term architectural investments" made in Vista. "Windows Vista established a very solid foundation, particularly on subsystems such as graphics, audio, and storage. Windows Server 2008 was built on that foundation and Windows 7 will be as well," he said.

In fact, Sinofsky and Flores confirmed other like-Vista aspects of Windows 7, including the fact that the new OS will be released in both 32- and 64-bit versions -- there was some speculation earlier that it would be a 64-bit operating system only -- and would, as Flores said, run on the same hardware as recommended for Vista.

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Gregg Keizer

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