Blog divulges details about next Windows OS

Microsoft employee lets slip details on new operating system

For the second time in five weeks, information about a key upcoming Microsoft product has come to light because of a presentation placed on the company's Web site by an employee in Denmark.

According to a PowerPoint presentation (download PDF) created by a technical staffer at Microsoft Denmark, the software vendor plans to invest in four major areas in the next client version of Windows after Vista. Microsoft has already begun working on its next OS, and one executive indicated last month that the company hopes to ship the follow-on during 2009 -- although Microsoft later issued a statement saying that it is "not giving official guidance to the public yet about the next version of Windows."

The PowerPoint presentation, which is dated Jan. 31 and can be accessed via Microsoft's site, was publicized today on AeroXperience, an independent blog aimed at Windows Vista developers.

The AeroXperience posting says that two slides in the presentation contain information that "more than likely applies to 'Windows Seven,'" the codename that Microsoft is using internally for the successor to Vista.

According to the slides, planned areas of investment for end users in Windows Seven include making it easier to find information and improving mobile connectivity. For example, a detailed list of future Windows features includes converged local, network and Internet search capabilities and improved wireless connectivity, management and security.

For IT professionals, the presentation indicates, planned improvements include added security measures, such as extending data protection and management capabilities to peripheral devices and expanding usage monitoring capabilities for compliance purposes. Cutting PC operating costs will also be a priority, via new features such as simplified provisioning and upgrading of systems, according to the slides.

Last month, AeroXperience was the first to report that Microsoft planned to spend US$1 billion per year on development of the next version of Office, which is referred to by Microsoft employees as Office 14 and is expected to be ready for release in the first half of 2009.

In the Office-related posting, AeroXperience cited a different PowerPoint presentation apparently created by another Microsoft Denmark employee that was also hosted on the site. That presentation has since been taken down by Microsoft, although AeroXperience still has copies of some of the slides on its Web site.

Separately, the next version of Microsoft's Windows Media Center software is expected to be released "out of band," meaning that it won't necessarily be tied to a new version of the base Windows OS or a service-pack update, according to a March 14 blog posting by a Microsoft official that was highlighted yesterday by ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley.

Microsoft has released a version of Windows Media Center each year since 2002, including one codenamed Diamond that came out last year and is built into Windows Vista Ultimate. The blog posting by Charlie Owen, a program manager for Windows Media Center, notes that Diamond is the only one of the releases that was synchronized with a new version of Windows.

Owen wrote that with the next version of Windows Media Center, Microsoft will continue "our (approximate) yearly schedule" of releases. But he didn't disclose any specific target dates or development milestones. He added only that the Media Center team is "hard at work defining and coding the next version."

In her blog entry, Foley wrote that she expects the next release of Windows Media Center to arrive this year or during 2008. Citing unnamed sources as well as a hint in an earlier posting by Owen, she said that she thinks the upcoming version is codenamed Fiji.

Microsoft didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the various blog postings related to Windows Seven and Windows Media Center.

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Eric Lai

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