A limited vista on Windows 7

Some Microsoft watchers muse on what we can learn from some alleged screenshots about Redmond's approach to the upcoming version of the OS.

Some purported screenshots from a new build of Windows 7 have Microsoft watchers ruminating on the forthcoming version of the operating system and the company's take that the less said, the better.

The blog ThinkNext.net has posted a large set of screenshots that it says represent Windows 7 M3 Build 6780, from the start menu and the control panel to the media player and (how could they skip this one?) the error page. Wording on the post is terse, to say the least--the screen images are there for you to behold and for you to make of them what you will.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, who has seen Build 6780, reports that the leaked screenshots are "something about which neither Microsoft nor some of its testers seem very happy." And from there she goes on to contemplate whether Redmond's zipped-lip policy on the features and functions of Windows 7 is a wise one for the company and its beta testers.

If Microsoft does end up providing early Windows 7 bits to attendees of its upcoming Professional Developers Conference and/or Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, I'll be interested to see what the terms and conditions will be on these builds. Will testers be allowed to talk about what they get? Or be bound by non-disclosure agreements? I'll also be interested to see how much Windows 7 changes between these latest M3 builds and Beta 1 in December.

Top Windows folks at Microsoft have said that the Professional Developers Conference in late October and WinHEC the following week are "the first venues where we will provide in-depth technical information about Windows 7." They've also said that Windows 7 will follow the Windows Vista kernel approach and driver model, and will incorporate the company's multitouch interface.

At the Technologizer blog, meanwhile, Harry McCracken gives an overview of Microsoft's nonpublicity efforts on Windows 7, against the backdrop of the verbiage that preceded the launch of Windows Vista. "For now," he says, "the quieter, humbler, more disciplined Microsoft is kind of refreshing."

He also offers a few observations on what we can glean from the screenshots shown at ThinkNext: "None of the stuff you can glimpse in the screens seems to represent any radical rethinking of the Windows interface." The particulars of the purported Build 6780, per McCracken, don't exactly take the breath away: " A fancier calculator (woo hoo!)", for instance, and the appearance of "Office 2007's Ribbon interface in WordPad and Paint (I'm a fan of the Ribbon, but I hope this isn't among Seven's major breakthroughs)."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has targeted late 2009 for release of the new version of the operating system.

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