UI-wise, 7 looks like Vista, with some UI tweaks (I started writing them down, but found this post that does a nicer job, with pictures to boot - ah, cross-posting is fun ).
I personally liked the following features:
- Toned down UAC
- Ability to create and mount a virtual disk from the operating system - and even boot from it!
I'm sure VMWare are NOT thrilled about this particular feature
- "Libraries" allowing better collection and search of data across disks and computers
- Better device handling
- Much smaller footprint - it was booted off an EEE PC, 1Ghz CPU, 1Gb of RAM - and there was till half a Gb left
- "Homegroup" - Auto-discovery for network. 15 years after Windows 3.1 for Workgroups, Microsoft manages to get networks right
- Customizable shutdown button - to solve a major Vista annoyance
- You now control the popups in the taskbar from a central location
As for timeline, we got the pre-beta today (on a nice 160Gb WD hard disk - along with tons of downloads, demos and virtual images). Beta 1 is coming at the beginning of 2009. RTM was not announced - this time Microsoft will work on ity until ready.
Sinofsky mentioned the bad rep that Vista received, including in competing commercials (I assume he meant Apple's "I'm a Mac - I'm a PC") and while everyone laughed, he looked visibly hurt. He claimed Microsoft has learned from the critisism and will provide a better product in 7 as a result. He called to developers to start developing 64-bit code.
I was disappointed to see they still have versions of the OS, similar to Vista ("Premium", "Ultimate" etc.). Still, I can't wait to get home and install it.
We then got a taste of VS 2010 and .Net 4.0. Many features, tying into Azure, WPF, Silverlight etc. The entire VStudio IDE is built in WPF and is therefore exstensible by the user (the demo showed how you can show comments as bubbles rather than text, and how a bug number in a comment turns to a link to the bug in the tracking system).
We then got a whiff of the new Office Web Applications. I was blown away. using WPF and Silverlight, you can now get an exact replica of all Office apps in your browser. What's more, several people can work on the same document at the same time (from desktops or the web and the content gets updated in real time.
Don Box than regaled the crowd with a quick smart session using the new .Net services to expose some of his computer's content to the web using Azure and other new techniques.
I attended some interesting sessions today - some too technical to discuss. But one new feature in 7, called "Troubleshooting packages" is worth waiting for. Common problems can be solved automatically, using a series of scripted tasks. The demo showed how a movie played without the sound. The sound trobleshoot package was double-clicked, and the script started the audio service (which was turned off on purpose) and un-muted the speakers. This opens a lot of opportunities.
Amongst the toys and swag we received from presenters, I like one the most. It's a device with an accelorometer, a light detector and several other features - all accessible through an SDK provided on a CD. I wonder what uses for it I'll come up with...
The day ended with a major Halloween party at Universal Studios. The park was closed to the public. Smoke machines worked overtime (it was impossible to see in some sections) and tens of actors dressed as monster, zombies and clowns with saws (whare is that from?) harassed the people. I'm not into horror films, but it was fun.