Details on Windows 7, Azure, Server 2008 Emerge from PDC

After setting Windows Azure off into the sky on day one, Microsoft used day two of its Professional Developers Conference to reveal demos of Windows 7 pre-beta, new nuggets about Office, and a pre-beta developer release of Windows Server 2008 R2.

News about the various iterations of Windows—Azure, Windows 7, Server 2008—came flying out of Microsoft's PDC (Professional Developers Conference) at a fast and furious clip during day two in Los Angeles.

After introducing the world on Monday to Windows Azure, a cloud computing version of its operating system, Microsoft moved on to the highly-anticipated subject of Windows 7 in Tuesday's keynote, handing out to developers demos of the pre-beta M3 (Milestone 3) designed by Windows Development Chief Steven Sinofsky.

During the keynote, Sinofsky discussed Microsoft's goals with Windows 7.

Specifically, Microsoft is working to improve start up and shut down times and has been working with computer manufacturers to address system performance, Sinofsky says.

He highlighted two other Windows 7 features in the keynote: a new taskbar that allows for easier management of multiple open Windows and support for multi-touch input.

Veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley blogged about all of the new features being consumer-focused and was left wondering what Windows 7 has for businesses.

Fellow Microsoft blogger Ed Bott provides a first look at the Windows 7 pre-beta, noting that the new features are "more than skin deep," with the most visible being the simplifying of tasks like connecting to a wireless network and organizing a digital music collection. Bott also touts noteworthy changes to the task bar and "noticeably less intrusive" User Account Control.

There was some significant Office news out of PDC today as well. Microsoft showed for the first time Office Web applications, lightweight versions of Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for viewing, editing, and collaboration right within the browser.

Additionally, Microsoft revealed that updates in Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4 will help developers build next-generation applications for Windows 7. The company also discussed Oslo, its modeling strategy.

In a statement about the day two keynote, Microsoft said: "Windows 7 strives to extend developers' investments in Windows and Windows Vista and increase productivity while offering new capabilities to create more applications and services that take advantage of the best of the client and the Web."

Other key news slated for day two at PDC, includes:

  • Pre-beta developer release of Windows Server 2008 R2, which aims to offer updates to Windows Server 2008 such as live migration of virtual machines, power saving capabilities and developer features to build and host applications and services.
  • Open beta of Live Mesh, a service for synchronizing a user's documents, media, files and application data across multiple PCs and devices, for Windows and Windows Mobile.
  • Technology Preview of the Live Framework, enabling Web developers to extend their Web applications to a world of Windows-based PCs and extending their Web applications offline.
  • In the keynote on Monday, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie drilled down on Windows Azure, a cloud computing version of its operating system that will allow Windows developers to build and host online services. (For more on what Azure is and isn't, see this useful analysis.)

    The Azure announcement came as no surprise, as Steve Ballmer said less than a month ago that Microsoft would soon be announcing a Windows cloud offering.

    Ozzie said that Azure will compete with Amazon's existing EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) service. With Azure, Microsoft, which is releasing a CTP (community technology preview) of Azure to PDC attendees, plans to ultimately give developers the tools to write applications that run in a remote data center.

    Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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