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Windows watch starts to point to 7

Speculation is mounting over what will be in the next version of Windows and when the update will take place.

Officially, Microsoft has very little to say about Windows 7.

But since nature abhors a vacuum, and tech enthusiasts like them even less, the rumor mills are starting to crank into high gear.

Postings in the last week suggest that Windows 7 may arrive in 2009, not 2010, as had become the conventional wisdom. Meanwhile, a poster at enthusiast site Neowin, claims to have played with an early development build of the software.

I've long been skeptical of the notion that Microsoft would wait until 2010 to try to update Vista. It just doesn't fit well with CEO Steve Ballmer's promise that Microsoft would speed up Windows releases.

Plus, Vista has gotten only a modest reception from reviewers and other critics. And while Microsoft is bringing out a service pack update this year, the company has said it will contain virtually no new features. As such, it is unlikely to boost consumer enthusiasm.

That said, Windows 7 won't necessarily be a major architectural overhaul. If I were Microsoft, I'd spend nearly all my time fixing Vista annoyances and adding features that don't touch the core of Windows, particularly in areas that consumers really care about, such as photos, music, video, and Web browsing.

I'd make connecting to digital photo frames and flat-screen TVs a snap. And I'd make multi-touch a standard option. (It sounds like that's already happening.)

Apple has really created the playbook on how to have just enough in an operating system release to make it interesting without making it a project that takes several years to complete.

But my wants aside, the real question is what is on Redmond's to-do list for Windows 7. A blogger purporting to be on the Windows 7 team has made several postings on the new OS.

Among the revelations: at least one feature on Microsoft's list is something that made its debut in Leopard. (The blogger notes that the feature was on Microsoft's road map prior to Apple's announcement that it was part of Leopard.) He or she wouldn't say which feature it is, but said it is in this list of 300 Leopard changes.

Microsoft folks have said a few things here and there about Windows 7. Last fall, distinguished engineer Eric Traut gave a university lecture in which he talked about a slimmed-down Windows core, dubbed MinWin, that was part of the Windows 7 development process.

So what's on your want list for Windows 7? Drop me a note or post your thoughts below.