TechEd 2008: Windows Vista and the Road to Windows 7

Hola from TechEd 2008 IT Professionals in Barcelona! Tuesday marked the first public overview to IT professionals of several new features in Windows 7, providing greater security and manageability for remote and local PCs, while improving on the fundamentals of performance and reliability.

There were a number of interesting sessions on Windows 7 features for IT pros. The Windows Client Product Management team opened the day with a feature-packed overview of the upcoming client OS.

I already reported on a first look at Windows 7 in a previous post, so I thought I’d take the time to provide some additional highlights from the day, especially for those of you who are wondering about whether to keep going down the path of Windows Vista deployment. Beyond the new features, the primary message at the show was around compatibility, management consistency and maintaining the progress that Windows Vista has made with the hardware and application ecosystem.

  • Most software that runs on Windows Vista will run on Windows 7. Exceptions may be applications that call low-level code (anti-malware, some firewalls, defrag utilities, etc.)
  • It’s expected that hardware that runs Windows Vista well, will also run Windows 7 well.

One of the notable demonstrations at the event was by Jeremy Chapman, a Senior Product Manager in the Windows Product group, who showed how applications not compatible with Windows Vista share similar incompatibilities with Windows 7—underscoring that the work to remediate with Windows Vista will not be lost. He continued the demonstration by fixing an extremely incompatible application in Windows Vista using a shim database (SDB) file; he then transferred that same SDB file and installed it on a Windows 7 machine to fix the application. It was an enlightening demo that showed how application compatibility testing and remediation for Windows Vista carries forward to Windows 7.

The demos kept coming with new security features demonstrated by Paul Cooke, a Director of Product Management in the Windows Client group. Reiterating the compatibility story between Windows Vista and Windows 7, Paul spoke about how the changes in Windows 7 security would not affect application compatibility. With an eye on securing portable drive data, Windows 7 extends the Windows Vista BitLocker data encryption functionality to external USB sticks. Newly dubbed ‘BitLocker To Go’ it can also be Group Policy enforced. Paul went on to show an update to Software Restriction Policies – called “AppLocker” – to whitelist or blacklist applications from running on policy-managed machines.

The session highlight of the day however, was from application compatibility guru, Chris Jackson, an architect with Microsoft Services, where he displayed his shimming wizardry in a demo-intensive and nearly slide-less session on application shimming (the process of adding a translation layer between the OS and the application). All this work applies to Windows Vista and Windows 7 alike; I can’t wait to see more from him.

We’ll return with more insights from TechEd 2008 IT Professionals in Barcelona after Springboard’s spokesman and Microsoft Technical Fellow, Mark Russinovich, delivers his “Case of the Unexplained” series and Steve Riley, a Senior Technical Evangelist with Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing initiative, continues to beat the security drum in Barcelona. Adios for now and stay tuned!