FAQ: What we know about Windows 7

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

Has Microsoft said anything about specific features it plans to ship in Windows 7?

A little, but only that. Tuesday night, Microsoft demonstrated a touch-screen feature that the company said would be integrated into Windows 7.

The feature, which incorporates technology Microsoft debuted last year as its Surface project, appears similar to the gesture-based multi-touch tools built into Apple's iPhone and MacBook Air, though on the latter the touch is limited to a larger-than-normal trackpad, not the entire screen.

Nothing else?

The sessions list for the upcoming Professional Developers Conference, scheduled to run October 26-30, has a couple of clues.

One session, says the current list, will focus on battery life -- presumably batteries in notebooks first of all, but also for other mobile devices Microsoft hopes to get Windows 7 into.

"Windows 7 provides advances for building energy-efficient applications," says the write-up. "In this session we will discuss how to leverage new Windows infrastructure to reduce application power consumption and efficiently schedule background tasks and services."

Other sessions at the conference will tackle such Windows 7 topics as "Graphics Advances," "Touch Computing" (but we already knew that), and "Web Services in Native Code." That last sounds intriguing, considering Microsoft's push-push-push on its "Software + Services" concept.

The OS, says Microsoft, will include a new networking API (application programming interface) to support building SOAP-based Web services in native code. "This session will discuss the programming model, interoperability aspects with other implementations of WS-* protocols and demonstrate various services and applications built using this API."

Will Windows 7 sport a new kernel?

Nope.

Last October, a Microsoft engineer revealed that the company had 200 programmers working on slimming down the Windows kernel for Windows 7; he dubbed it "MinWin" and said it would sport a memory footprint less than one-sixth that of Windows Vista's kernel.

Yesterday, though, Flores and Sinofsky both said Windows 7 won't sport a new kernel. "Contrary to some speculation, Microsoft is not creating a new kernel for Windows 7," Flores said.

Sinofsky put it differently. "The key there is that the kernel in Windows Server 2008 is an evolution of the kernel in Windows Vista, and then Windows 7 will be a further evolution of that kernel as well," he said.

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