PDC 2009 Day 2: Keynote, Steven Sinofsky

November 18, 2009

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The second keynote started with Steven Sinofsky, President, Windows and Windows Live Division, Microsoft Corp.

Steven is talking about the development process of Windows 7 and what it means to develop for Windows 7. He’s also going to say a few words about what we’re going to see going forward.

In the Windows 7 engineering process, Steven emphasized the new innovative features and said that they’ve learned that they need to balance the new features with fundamental improvements to the system, exactly as in Windows 7. The E7 Blog engaged a great dialog about the nuances of developing Windows; on the other hand, the hardware, drivers, application compatibility – ecosystem readiness – were in a significantly better state than in earlier releases of Windows. The major milestones (M3, Beta, RC) were ready for testing and real work – these were not just preview releases. [Even though I know first-hand that there were still significant changes in the product, especially between Beta and RC.]

Microsoft collected a huge amount of telemetry from Windows 7. Some examples of the information collected were comments from the “Send Feedback” button in the caption of each window; information about devices plugged in and drivers loaded; reliability diagnostics; usage statistics for buttons, keyboard accelerators, sequences of common events and tasks; and of course WER reports. Over 80% of customers voluntarily opted in to sending this information to Microsoft. (Steven emphasized that the information is private, confidential and does not contain any personally identifiable details.)

Some numbers from the period of the pre-RTM versions of Windows 7 – 1.7M “Send Feedback” reports; 91K unique external devices plugged into the system, of them 14K unique printers; 883K unique applications; 8.1M installations, of which 4.3M of the RC; 10.4M WER reports submitted; 4,753 code changes driven by WER; 6K measurement points in Windows 7 for telemetry reports; 900M user sessions – logon/logoff; 514M times the Start menu was clicked; 46M times the Aero Snap and Aero Shake were used (which are new features!!).

Screen resolution information: 55% with 1024×768; less than 0.5% with 19200×1200. This is not intuitive information for developers 😉 [Also see E7 Blog for more numbers.]

Steven also mentioned new features in Windows 7 (see my Windows7 tag) – Ribbon, multitouch, Sensor and Location, jump lists, and many others. These are no new features in Windows 7 announced at this time. 🙂

One of the lessons learned is the need to support netbooks, which are the fastest emerging market. (And laptop sales have long ago taken over desktop PC sales.) This changes the hardware requirements for Windows 7 – and there are some changes that application vendors must make. [See Chapter 13 in our book.]

DirectCompute is another technology mentioned – using the power of the GPU even for work that was usually intended for the CPU. GPUs are highly parallelizable, and I will attend a session on DirectCompute tomorrow.

Steven just announced that Microsoft is giving away the Acer laptop designed especially for the PDC 2009 to all PDC attendees for free! It’s got multitouch, an ambient light sensor, and lots of other features for experiencing Windows 7! This is a really incredible surprise after there were no significant giveaways during the first day of the conference.

Steven wrapped up the talk by discussing how Internet Explorer 9 is going to focus on performance esp. in JavaScript, support HTML 5, and use hardware support for graphics and text acceleration. For example, in IE9 there will be support for D2D and DirectWrite for high-fidelity text rendering (replacing GDI). Of course Direct2D and DirectWrite are only available on Windows 7 (or with an additional installation, on Windows Vista).

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