Windows 7 takes center 'stage'

Microsoft focuses on a feature called "device stage" that makes it easier to tweak settings for add-ons. Also, company shows off support for sensors and touch.

Correction, 10:33 a.m. PST: This story initially misstated when a Windows 7 feature-complete beta will be available. It is early 2009.

LOS ANGELES--Choice was the watchword in the Windows 7 discussion Wednesday, as Microsoft aimed to highlight what it sees as its chief advantage over rival Apple.

Steven Sinofsky, sporting a bit of a Steve Jobs look, shows off Windows 7 at the WinHEC 2008 conference in Los Angeles. Ina Fried/CNET News

"A key part of Windows 7 is to enable a full spectrum of choices," senior vice president Steven Sinofsky said in a speech at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here.

While the new Windows will enable high-end machines with multitouch, it will also work on low-end machines. While Vista has largely been absent in the fast-growing Netbook category, Windows 7 is aimed to work well on such low-end devices --a number of which are on display at WinHEC .

Among the machines Microsoft showed was an Eee PC with a 1GB hard drive and a 16GB solid-state drive, which the software maker said could run Windows 7 with "room to spare."

For hardware makers, Microsoft has a feature called "device stage" that lets them offer up things like manuals, links to services, and access to content stored on the device in one place.

On stage, Microsoft showed a Nokia phone hooked up to Windows 7, automatically making available all the content on the device.

The company also said it will support a number of additional audio and video formats out of the box, including Divx, H.264 and unprotected AAC.

Windows 7 also has integrated support for sensors, such as light sensors, accelerometers or GPS, or even more exotic kinds of input. For example, Microsoft showed a ThinkPad with a spectrophotometer to help handle color calibration.

Sinofsky also noted that even though Microsoft has put a lot of focus on touch, it is not abandoning its Tablet PC work. Ray Ozzie last week told TechFlash that touch can be mainstream, while Tablet PC was "truly niche," a description that apparently irked the Tablet PC enthusiast crowd.

As for when folks will actually get their hands on 7, Microsoft didn't offer new details, beyond saying a feature-complete beta will be available in early 2009.

Sinofsky did mention a "release candidate to RTM phase," suggesting that Microsoft is only planning a single beta.

Click here for more news on Windows 7.

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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