Engineering Windows 7

Welcome to our blog dedicated to the engineering of Microsoft Windows 7

Our Next Engineering Milestone

Our Next Engineering Milestone

Many posts start with a thank you and I want to start this post with an extra special thank you on behalf of the entire Windows team for all the installs and usage we are seeing of the Windows 7 Beta. We’ve had millions of installations of Windows 7 from which we are receiving telemetry, which is simply incredible. And from those who click on the “Send Feedback” button we are receiving detailed bug reports and of course many suggestions. There is simply no way we could move from Beta through Final Release of Windows 7 without this type of breadth coverage and engagement from you in the development cycle. There’s been such an incredible response, with many folks even blogging about how they have moved to using Windows 7 Beta on all their machines and have been super happy. The question we get most often is “if the Beta expires in August what will I do—I don’t want to return to my old [sic] operating system.” For a Beta release, that is quite a complement and we’re very appreciative of such a kind response.

This post is about the path from where we are today, Beta, to our RTM (Release To Manufacturing), building on the discussion of this topic that started at the PDC. This post is in no way an announcement of a ship date, change in plans, or change in our previously described process, but rather it provides additional detail and a forward looking view of the path to RTM and General Availability. The motivation for this, in addition to the high level of interest in Windows 7, is that we’re now seeing how releasing Windows is not something that Microsoft does “solo”, but rather is something that we do as one part of the overall PC ecosystem. Obviously we have a big responsibility to do our part, one we take very seriously of course. The last stages of a Windows release are a partnership across the entire ecosystem working to make sure that the incredible variety of choices you have for PCs, software, and peripherals work together to bring you a complete and satisfying Windows 7 experience.

The next milestone for the development of Windows 7 is the Release Candidate or “RC”. Historically the Release Candidate has signaled “we’re pretty close and we want people to start testing the release, especially because all the features are done.” As we have said before, with Windows 7 we chose a slightly different approach which we were clear up front about and are all now experiencing together and out in the open. The Pre-Beta from the PDC was a release where we said it was substantially API complete and even for the areas that were not in the release we detailed the APIs and experience in the sessions at the PDC. At that time we announced that the Beta test in early 2009 would be both API and feature complete, widely available, and would be the only Beta test. We continued this dialog with our hardware partners at WinHEC. We also said that many ecosystem partners including PC makers, software vendors, hardware makers will, as has been the case, continue to receive interim builds on a regular basis. This is where we stand today. We’ve released the feature complete Beta and have made it available broadly around the world (though we know folks have requested even more languages). As a development team we’re doing just what many of you do, which is choosing to run the Beta full time on many PCs at home and work (personally I have at least 9 different machines running it full time) and we’re running it on many thousands of individual’s machines inside Microsoft, and thousands of machines in our labs as well.

All the folks running the Beta are actively contributing to fixing it. We’re getting performance telemetry, application compatibility data, usage information, and details on device requirements among other areas. This data is very structured and very actionable. We have very high-bandwidth relationships with partners and good tools to help each other to deliver a great experience. One thing you might be seeing is that hardware and software vendors might be trying out updated drivers / software enhanced for Windows 7. For example, many of the anti-virus vendors already have released compatibility packs or updates that are automatically applied to your running installation. You might notice, for example, that many GPU chipsets are being recognized and Windows 7 downloads the updated WDDM 1.1 drivers. While the Windows Vista drivers work as expected, the new 1.1 drivers provide enhanced performance and a reduced memory footprint, which can make a big difference on 1GB shared memory machines. You might insert a device and receive a recently updated version of a driver as I did for a Logitech QuickCam. Another example some of you might have seen is that the Beta requires a an updated version of Skype software currently in testing. When you go to install the old version you get an error message and then the problem and solutions user interface kicks in and you are redirected to the Beta site. This type of error handling is deployed in real time as we learn more and as the ecosystem builds out support. It is only because of our partnerships across the ecosystem that such efforts are possible, even during the Beta.

Of course, it is worth reiterating that our design point is that devices and software that work on Windows Vista and are still supported by the manufacturer will work on Windows 7 with the same software. There are classes of software and devices that are Windows-version specific for a variety of reasons, as we have talked about, and we continue to work together to deliver great solutions for Windows 7. The ability to provide people the vast array of choices and the openness of the Windows platform make all of this a massive undertaking. We continue to work to improve this while also making sure we provide the opportunities for choice and differentiation that are critical to the health and variety of the overall ecosystem. This data and the work we’re doing together with partners is the critical work going on now to reach the Release Candidate phase.

We’re also looking carefully at all the quality metrics we gather during the Beta. We investigate crashes, hangs, app compat issues, and also real-world performance of key scenarios. A very significant portion of our effort from Beta to RC is focused on exclusively on quality and performance. We want to fix bugs experienced by customers in real usage as well as our broad base of test suites and automation. A key part of this work is to fix the bugs that people really encounter and we do so by focusing our efforts on the data we receive to drive the ordering and priority of which bugs to fix. As Internet Explorer has moved to Release Candidate, we’ve seen this at work and also read about it on IE Blog.

Of course the other work we’re doing is refining the final product based on all the real-world usage and feedback. We’ve received a lot of verbatim feedback regarding the user experience—whether that is default settings, keyboard shortcuts, or desired options to name a few things. Needless to say just working through, structuring, and “tallying” this feedback is a massive undertaking and we have folks dedicated to doing just that. At the peak we were receiving one “Send Feedback” note every 15 seconds! As we’ve talked about in this blog, we receive a lot of feedback where we must weigh the opinions we receive because we hear from all sides of an issue—that’s to be expected and really the core design challenge. We also receive feedback where we thought something was straight forward or would work fine, but in practice needed some tuning and refinement. Over the next weeks we’ll be blogging about some of these specific changes to the product. These changes are part of the process and part of the time we have scheduled between Beta and RC.

So right now, every day we are researching issues, resolving them, and making sure those resolutions did not cause regressions (in performance, behavior, compatibility, or reliability). The path to Release Candidate is all about getting the product to a known and shippable state both from an internal and external (Beta usage and partner ecosystem readiness) standpoint.

We will then provide the Release Candidate as a refresh for the Beta. We expect, based on our experience with the Beta, a broad set of folks to be pretty interested in trying it out.

With the RC, this process of feedback based on telemetry then repeats itself. However at this milestone we will be very selective about what changes we make between the Release Candidate and the final product, and very clear in communicating them. We will act on the most critical issues. The point of the Release Candidate is to make sure everyone is ready for the release and that there is time between the Release Candidate and our release to PC makers and manufacturing to validate all the work that has gone on since the pre-Beta. Again, we expect very few changes to the code. We often “joke” that this is the point of lowest productivity for the development team because we all come to work focused on the product but we write almost no code. That’s the way it has to be—the ship is on the launch pad and all the tools are put away in the toolbox to be used only in case of the most critical issues.

As stated up front, this is a partnership and the main thing going on during this phase of the project is really about ecosystem readiness. PC makers, software vendors, hardware makers all have their own lead times. The time to prepare new products, new configurations, software updates, and all the collateral that goes with that means that Windows 7 cannot hit the streets (so to speak) until everyone has time to be ready together. Think of all those web sites, download pages, how-to articles, training materials, and peripheral packages that need to be created—this takes time and knowing that the Release Candidate is the final code that we’re all testing out in the open is reassuring for the ecosystem. Our goal is that by being deliberate, predictable, and reliable, the full PC experience is available to customers.

We also continue to build out our compatibility lists, starting with logo products, so that our http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility site is a good resource for people starting with availability. All of these come together with the PC makers creating complete “images” of Windows 7 PCs, including the full software, hardware, and driver loads. This is sort of a rehearsal for the next steps.

At that point the product is ready for release and that’s just what we will do. We might even follow that up with a bit of a celebration!

There’s one extra step which is what we call General Availability or GA. This step is really the time it takes literally to “fill the channel” with Windows PCs that are pre-loaded with Windows 7 and stock the stores (online or in-person) with software. We know many folks would like us to make the RTM software available right away for download, but this release will follow our more established pattern. GA also allows us time to complete the localization and ready Windows for a truly worldwide delivery in a relatively small window of time, a smaller window for Windows 7 than any previous release. It is worth noting that the Release Candidate will continue to function long enough so no one should worry and everyone should feel free to keep running the Release Candidate.

So to summarize briefly:

  • Pre-Beta – This release at the PDC introduced the developer community to Windows 7 and represents the platform complete release and disclosure of the features.
  • Beta – This release provided a couple of million folks the opportunity to use feature complete Windows 7 while also providing the telemetry and feedback necessary for us to validate the quality, reliability, compatibility, and experience of Windows 7. As we said, we are working with our partners across the ecosystem to make sure that testing and validation and development of Windows 7-based products begins to enter final phases as we move through the Beta.
  • Release Candidate (RC) – This release will be Windows 7 as we intend to ship it. We will continue to listen to feedback and telemetry with the focus on addressing only the most critical issues that arise. We will be very clear in communicating any changes that have a visible impact on the product. This release allows the whole ecosystem to reach a known state together and make sure that we are all ready together for the Release to Manufacturing. Once we get to RC, the whole ecosystem is in “dress rehearsal” mode for the next steps.
  • Release to Manufacturing (RTM) – This release is the final Windows 7 as we intend to make available to PC makers and for retail and volume license products.
  • General Availability (GA) – This is a business milestone and represents when you can buy Windows 7 pre-installed on PCs or as full packaged product.

The obvious question is that we know the Pre-Beta was October 28, 2008, and the Beta was January 7th, so when is the Release Candidate and RTM? The answer is forthcoming. We are currently evaluating the feedback and telemetry and working to develop a robust schedule that gets us the right level of quality in a predictable manner. Believe me, we know many people want to know more specifics. We’re on a good path and we’re making progress. We are taking a quality-based approach to completing the product and won’t be driven by imposed deadlines. We have internal metrics and milestones and our partners continue to get builds routinely so even when we reach RC, we are doing so together as partners. And it relies, rather significantly, on all of you testing the Beta and our partners who are helping us get to the finish line together.

Shipping Windows, as we hoped this shows, is really an industry-wide partnership. As we talked about in our first post, we’re promising to deliver the best release of Windows we possibly can and that’s our goal. Together, and with a little bit more patience, we’ll achieve that goal.

We continue to be humbled by the response to Windows 7 and are heads down on delivering a product that continues to meet your needs and the needs of our whole industry.

--Steven on behalf of the Windows 7 team

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  • This is a Windows flaw, it's clear that emulate any input keys also with limited privileges is BAD THING.

    UAC is good if it works well in any conditions (read: with any setting that not disable it).

    If a simple VBScript can turn off UAC is a BAD THING.

    If you don't want to disable SendKey() hooks, I don't think that it's difficult to fix this making simple unsigned UAC panel.

    The default level of UAC is an OPTION that MUST WORK, if they don't fix this IT'S simply USELESS.

    I love Windows 7 but Microsoft has to do the right thing.

  • Just posted on my blog - love Windows 7 and looks like there is a solid release plan.

    HOWEVER, I can't figure out how to submit all the BIG Troubles I am having with 64 Bit edition of Win 7 (details just posted on my adir1.com blog).

    I think 64 Bit should get special attention. It was always in big trouble, and with most computers coming out with 4+ GB ram, it's more critical than ever before.

  • I'm impressed with Windows 7 so far, and general feedback from other forum users seems to be positive too.

    I do hope this is a really polished release, as it feels like Vista came out only a short time ago.

    One thing I've picked up on from these comments was a request for the "up" folder button. That would be a most welcome re-inclusion!

  • @adir1 -- please post your machine make/model as your blog description doesn't give much information to go on.

    --Steven

  • @burgesjl, d_e and some other,

    Microsoft has got some own (business and other) targets and that's why Vista and 7 look like and Windows 5.x line hasn't been continued. You should read http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/245859/qa-microsoft-defends-return-to-drm.html and see, how does life without walls look in Microsoft opinion. ..

    BTW, I was trying to start some dialogue in this forum and I was heard, but not listened. Because of it I resigned from it. I won't be even suprised, when this post will be removed...

  • I will say few additional words: people are saying, that 7 seems to be better than previous one (Vista). Almost nobody speak, that it's faster, smaller, etc. than XP.

    In my opinion: it can show, how wrong product was Vista (and it would be really fair to give free upgrade for them) and it can show, that technologies (forced by business and other targets) implemented in 6.x made it more bloated than 5.x (because I don't believe, that Microsoft has got so wrong programmers now).

    How it will continue ? Opening MSN Mobile Music service gives a lot for thinking...

  • @Steven&Win7Team

    I have loaded Windows 7 on a few customer machines and They are just so pleased with the over all effectiveness of the Operating System, I can now say that the Beta is worthy of all my praise!

    What tops it off is that I have converted a Mac user to Windows 7, they actually went and purchased a PC after paying the big bucks for a Mac, this is in my view proof that Windows is simpler and more cost effective than anything Apple can do

  • Dear Mr. Sinofsky,

    First, I want to compliment you on Windows Seven. Its a strong product with potential

    HOWEVER, I must say that I'm very disheartened at Microsoft response to this brewing situation with the simple VB script potentially compromising Windows 7. It has been reported on these websites.

    http://community.winsupersite.com/blogs/paul/archive/2009/01/30/is-uac-broken-in-windows-7.aspx

    http://www.istartedsomething.com/20090130/uac-security-flaw-windows-7-beta-proof/

    http://www.withinwindows.com/2009/01/30/malware-can-turn-off-uac-in-windows-7-by-design-says-microsoft/

    This was Microsoft's official response as posted by Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows.

    •This is not a vulnerability. The intent of the default configuration of UAC is that users don’t get prompted when making changes to Windows settings.  This includes changing the UAC prompting level.

    •Microsoft has received a great deal of usability feedback on UAC prompting behavior in UAC, and has made changes in accordance with user feedback.

    •UAC is a feature designed to enable users to run software at user (non-admin) rights, something we refer to as Standard User.  Running software as standard user improves security reduces TCO.

    •The only way this could be changed without the user’s knowledge is by malicious code already running on the box.

    •In order for malicious code to have gotten on to the box, something else has already been breached (or the user has explicitly consented).

    I'm sorry but I seriously believe this is the wrong approach. I'm sure that cracker's, hacker's, code writer's, and virus writer's are now trying to figure out since the proof of concept is on the web. Before you start seriously discussing Release Candidate, this needs to be discussed.

    Considering how much people have worked on Windows 7, testers using Pre-Beta builds, testers using Windows 7 Beta, I find that really disappointing you'd leave such a simple backdoor open to attack.

    I would hope you guys would STRONGLY and URGENTLY to update Windows 7 with a better defense against VB script compromise. Some sort of update or additional defense here is needed and I URGENTLY insist that you guys look at this. Please do not dismiss this so easily!!!!!!!

    Also, I also agree with others that the multi-SKU'S model of Windows Vista, lead to its unpopularity. I believe One public version, with the multi-SKU's integreated into the product like Vista is good. However, you guys should program the Product Keys to allow you to switch to different versions with the same key.

    You've guys have done one hell of a job. Just find a amicable solution to the VB script and give users some added flexability. Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak out and add to the product.

  • I hope that it will be a big step from the Beta to the RC. I do not necessarily share all the enthusiasm many people express about the Beta. Strangely, in my experience as far as reliability is concerned the Beta was a step back in many ways compared to the Pre-Beta releases. Here some problems I have with the Beta that I didn't had with earlier builds:

    1. Explorer Service doesn't load after waking the pc up from sleep mode or after boot up. Even task manager doesn't work. I only see my wallpaper (no Taskbar) and have to reset the pc.

    2. Explorer doesn't find its content. The navigation pane is trying to load the folders but it doesn't succeed.

    3. Random crashes of Internet Explorer.

    4. Random no-response problems with Windows Media Player (I can't even stop the process and have to reboot).

    These are just the errors. In my opinion many parts of the Beta need work like for example the preview pane in Explorer.

    And I hope that there will also be some cosmetic changes. Maybe it's just a matter of taste, but I personally don't like the style of Seven. This may not seem crucial but for some parts of the computer buyers product lust is an important element.  

  • You can send feedback all day long about the things you want fixed in Windows 7 - but where do we see any of the things MS is actually going to work on?

    When you send feedback to MS you don't get responses.

    Where is a place that you can post that MS will actually listen?   Or are they going to make another Vista and ignore everyone who said Vista was slow?   How'd that work out for them last time?

  • Hi,

    Glad to hear Win7 is proceeding nicely towards an RC. Will beta users get that as a Windows Update or will we have to download it as a service pack or something?

    I have been using the beta in anger on my main machine for 2 weeks running the 64bit version. Decided after runing it on my old Athlon 64 test box that it ran so well I would chance it on the main box (Dell Optiplex i960).

    VERY IMPRESSED....

    Only issue was my Soundblaster Audigy Fatal1ty sound card which loaded OK from the original Vista disks but wouldn't activate the rear pair of speakers (NOT WINDOWS FAULT as the playback devices panel would play through the rear speakers, it was just the Creative software wouldn't expose that to Media Player.

    The Creative Console that would normally allow you to turn on 5.1 speakers kept crashing and when installing more recent drivers it kept complaining that there was no Soundblaster device on the system.  In the end I discovered Creative have a beta driver, downloaded that and now Win7 sounds as good if not better than Vista!

    One thing that I am surprised with is the new task bar, at first I couldn't see the point, but now using it for a couple of weeks doing real work has shown what a great time saver it can be when you use Aero Peek. I find I do want to switch quickly between coding and reading specs, in the past I would have used ALT+TAB which is OK when you have 2 or 3 Windows open but I often have 20 or more open and ALT Tabbing starts to become a ball-ache especially when the one you want is at the end of the long list. Now I just peek Word read the next bit and return to what I was coding. ACE!

    The only thing I do have a slight problem with the new taskbar is I sometimes do no realise which apps are open. I have to do work for a large corporate client who is still using Office 2003 and SQL Server 2000 and I have to run the same versions on Win7 so that I stay compatible with them.  

    The Enterprise Manager (EM) will run OK even though both Vista and Win7 point out that it isn't supported when you install the client tools. I know I could run in a VM but I'd rather not as you loose a lot of the Win7 features like aero peek.

    The issue is that when you pin the application to the task bar it uses an icon that looks like a window with a red toolbox in front of it.  When you click that and start a new EM session it starts a fresh taskbar icon which looks like the old EM icon.

    I haven't reported this via the normal mechanism as it isn't a supported application, but I have since noted other odd behaviours like this where for instance I am running Outlook 2003 which uses Word as its Email editor and when you start a new email it associates itself with Word rather than Outlook's icon which has caught me out a few times.

    Other than that though, the improved speed of starting up and shutting down is brilliant. The whole system feels more agile, possibly down to less services loaded and better graphics handling of the UI.

    Keep up the good work, keep it agile and fast, it's going to be a winner!!

  • > Or are they going to make

    > another Vista and ignore everyone

    > who said Vista was slow?

    I'm afraid, that it can happen. Why ?

    1. many problems and ideas (how to improve situation) described even on this forum were simply ignored

    2. Windows 7 is going to RC, although in fact has got the same requirements to Vista and when you will look into unofficial benchmarks (put against EULA into net), you will see, that real system performance is practically the same to Vista. I agree, that system seems to be faster in many places, but it's faster than Vista, not than XP. You still have many services and RAM usage, you still can get without any problems 100% CPU usage on plain system (have seen by me on VMWare)

  • If this current beta is indeed feature complete, does this mean there won't be any changes in the disk management options, and we are finally offered the possibillity to boot from a (software) raid 1 and use raid 5?

    i allways understood that the decision to exclude this from previous windows versions was an marketing decision.

    what marketing decision awaits us this time......

  • This week in class I had the problem I was talking in one of my previous class: When you select hibernate/shutdown it won't shut off if there's program running, it simply pop a list of all the program running asking you if you really wanna close them :S

    I'm repeating myself but: I want the computer to shutdown/hibernate NO MATTER WHAT inside 2min or so when placed in my backpack. (after closing the top or pressing the hibernate button)

    Something new: I read about booting on a VHD and I think it sould be made much simpler, I really would like to have a big VHD with a windows configure to run games, optimized with few services/programs, but right now it's pretty complicated to "simply" do that.

    When you over and icon of an multi-window application there's still the 1 sec delay for showing previews and it's very, very annoying especially in windows messenge, the worst experience ever I have ever had with this application.

    keep up the good work, it's far from finish.

  • When you right click a "program" icon.. or a shortcut to a program, you should have and "uninstall" command available.  Like when you delete the shortcut, it would be cool to have the ability to uninstall it, without having to go to control panel, etc.

    I also have random freezes in Media Center...

    But, I have loved and used VISTA since BETA and love 7 even more... using it on all my machines!!!!   Excellent job!!

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