written by: John Lister•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 6/25/2009
No sooner has XP been withdrawn in favour of Vista than tech-lovers are turning their attention to the next edition of Windows. We look at the confirmed and rumoured features in Windows 7.
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What is Windows 7?
Windows 7 is the working name for the next edition of Microsoft’s operating system, making it the sequel to Vista. (It’s possible that with so much publicity, Microsoft may actually stick with ‘Windows 7’ as the final name.)
It’s scheduled for release at the beginning of 2010. There’s no word yet on how much it will cost.
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What Features Will Be New in Windows 7?
The details of Windows 7 are being kept much more confidential than previous editions of Windows. That’s a deliberate policy by Microsoft to avoid detracting attention from Vista, and over-hyping features which might not appear in the final model. The first technical details will be released during two conferences in October.
Microsoft has already said the fundamentals of Windows 7 will be similar to Vista. It is being built using the same kernel as Vista, which is pretty much the brain of a computer. The kernel decides how to allocate memory to different programs, and even decides exactly what the computer should do at any particular instant.
This means Windows 7 is going to be very much a revamp rather than a complete rewrite of Vista. Indeed, Microsoft may be hoping to produce a system with all the good features of Vista but without the negative stigma that accompanied it.
Some of the most likely changes are making the User Account Control security feature less intrusive in daily computer use, and refining the Aero graphics system to use less memory.
Besides tweaking some of the problems from Vista, the biggest change officially announced so far is greater support for touchscreen technology, similar to that used on the iPhone.
There are also several changes which technology writers have suggested which, while not officially confirmed, appear to have a decent shot of making it into Windows 7. These include a ‘barebones’ edition designed for older computers, a specific gaming mode designed for the high graphics demands of video games, and a cut in the number of different editions of the operating system which buyers have to choose from.
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Can my Machine Run Windows 7?
There’s no way to be certain whether your computer will be able to run Windows 7 until the system is finished. If you want to get a rough idea, you can visit Infoworld, which has a free tool that can scan your system.
It’s worth noting that using this tool will require you to take part in Sentinel, a project which monitors computers to see how well Windows works in practice.
The tool’s predictions are based on the assumption that Windows 7 will require a dual-core processor, a minimum speed of 2GHZ, and at least 2GB of memory. The tool also checks your machine to see if it is coping with Vista, and whether any particular programs are hogging the memory.
Microsoft has said any hardware that is compatible with Vista should also run fine on Windows 7.
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What comes after Windows 7?
It’s far too early to say for certain when the next edition of Windows will come along. There are even some rumours that Microsoft might drop the Windows brand and build a new operating system from scratch.
However, the release dates of the past few editions suggests Microsoft could be going for a policy of a major rewrite of Windows every six years, with a revamped new edition every three years in between. If that’s the case, you can expect a significantly different edition of Windows to hit the shelves around 2013.