It's now over one year since Microsoft introduced the first Windows 7 Build. Back at the start of 2008, the next iteration of the Windows client was still in Alpha stage, with the software giant planning a total of three major development milestone releases ahead of moving the operating system into Beta. Fast forward to 2009, and the Redmond company is now cooking Windows 7 Builds from the Release Candidate branch. Microsoft's three-years-after-the-Vista-GA availability deadline for Windows 7 aside, the next version of Windows, namely Windows 6.1, is closer and closer to RTM.
Over the past year, testers that had access to Windows 7 milestone builds from the earliest stages of the development process witnessed a constant improvement of the operating system. At the same time, Windows 7 moved slowly but surely away from Windows Vista, and grew into its own. With the platform both API- and feature-complete, and a development strategy similar to that of the Office System, testers have seen very few Build releases, a trend which will continue moving onward, and are bound to see only minor changes to the operating system's architecture.
Microsoft is currently harvesting feedback from various sources, including the Windows 7 feedback mechanism, and is focusing on incorporating tester input into RC-branch builds. And yes, all the Windows 7 development milestones past Beta Build 7000 are Release Candidate Builds of Windows 7, since RC is the next building stage of the operating system. There is little talk of Windows 7 RC, and, in fact, little details available on just how tester feedback is being used to build the next milestone of the operating system.
However, testers should not interpret the radio silence from Microsoft as inactivity. In fact, the last thing that Microsoft is doing is to ignore the feedback from users running Windows 7 Beta. The silence, sometimes indeed deafening, is just an aspect of the translucency communication strategy introduced by Steven Sinofsky, Senior Vice President, Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group. But just looking at the Beta of Windows 7, you have to admit that the Windows team with Sinofsky at the helm did nothing short of a superb job, and I must underline superb job, in comparison to Windows Vista Beta 1.
What must be understood from the get go is that the Windows team has its hands full with tester feedback. According to Sinofsky, via Geeksmack, each member on the Windows team has to handle over 500 suggestions on Windows 7 since the Beta was launched. The Send Feedback button has been hit more than half a million times following the public availability of Windows 7 Beta Build 7000. Sinofsky emphasized that the Windows team is placing a strong focus on all suggestions, and incorporating the feedback into Windows 7.
Then again, all you have to do is take a hard look at the evolution of Windows 7 from development milestone to development milestone, as the translucency veil lifted more and more, to get sufficient proof that Microsoft is indeed building what Sinofsky referred to as a “great,” “major” release of Windows.
Windows 7 Milestone 1 Build 6.1.6519.1
And so it began... Windows 7 Milestone 1 Build 6.1.6519.1 was the first consistent sign of Windows life past Windows Vista. At that time, leaked information, screenshots and videos of Build 6.1.6519.1 were welcomed with a great deal of skepticism, with the public arguing that the release was Windows Vista and not Windows 7. And this was indeed the case, as version 6519 was closer to Vista than its successor, especially when it comes down to the graphical user interface. Still, Build 6519.1.x86.fre.winmain.071220-1525 was the real thing, but also the illustrative proof that Windows 7 was indeed Windows 6.1 compared to Vista (Windows 6.0), and the evolution of its precursor.
Windows 7 Milestone 2 Build 6574.1
Following its release to a select group of partners, Build 6519.1.x86.fre.winmain.071220-1525 was leaked to torrent websites, and the same path was reserved for Windows 7 Milestone 2 Build 6574.1. Testers continued to see more Vista than Windows 7 with version 6574, with Microsoft increasingly focusing on under-the-hood changes, at this stage in the development of the operating system. But, between M1 and M2, Microsoft offered a sneak peek of Windows 7, the first official previews of the platform. At that time, the company revealed a video demonstration of Windows 7's touch capabilities, as it was introducing the first major feature that would differentiate Win 7 from its precursors.
Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice President, Windows Experience Program Management, demonstrated Windows 7 at the D6 - All Things Digital conference. It was the very first time that Microsoft showed the new Superbar (the enhanced Taskbar) to the public, hinting at the evolution of the operating system's graphical user interface. And just as the build featured in the official presentations, release 6574 did introduce new UI elements, but only minor changes.
August 14, 2008
Is the date when the first words were published on Engineering Windows 7, an initiative which involved the senior engineering managers for Windows 7, Jon DeVaan and Steven Sinofsky, and various members of the Windows team. This was the day Microsoft started “talking” Windows 7, although the details were indeed limited to the engineering process. E7 has since launch been a consistent effort, with deep and comprehensive insights, offering a perspective over the development process of Windows 7. Can't wait for E8!
The official Windows 7 brand
There are undoubtedly more than few that still recall this moment. It was October 13, 2008 and Mike Nash, Corporate Vice President, Windows Product Management, announced that the Windows 7 was leaving its codename behind and that it would be branded as... Windows 7. It was for the first time in the history of Windows that the codename of a product was used as the final name. Nash revealed that the decision was made in search of simplicity.
Windows 7 pre-Beta Milestone 3 Build 6801 and Build 6956
It was the time of the Windows 7 road show, starting with the Professional Developer Conference 2009 and the Windows hardware Engineering Conference 2009 in Los Angeles, at the end of October, respectively the start of November of past year. Microsoft demonstrated Windows 7 to the PDC and WinHEC audiences, and the demos featured the new UI enhancements, like Aero Shake, Aero Snap, Thumbnail Previews, Aero Peek, the Superbar in all of its glory. Most importantly, as far as Microsoft was concerned, Windows 7 pre-Beta Milestone 3 Build 6801 was API complete just in time to be handed over to hardware and software developers. It was a signal from the Redmond company that companies building software and hardware products for Windows 7 could start to adapt their current offerings, as well as develop new ones for Windows 7.
Windows 7 Beta Build 7000
As far as Microsoft was concerned, Windows 7 pre-Beta was not feature complete. But the Beta was. Signed off in December 2008, leaked to BitTorrent trackers the same month, and released as a public download on January 10, 2009, Windows 7 Beta is the complete recipe of what Microsoft envisioned the next Windows iteration to be, feature-wise. Microsoft served Build 7000 downloads until February 12, 2009, at which time it discontinued completely access to the bits. Users that have failed to jump aboard, with Microsoft applauding millions of installs, in excess of the initial 2.5 million mark which the company intended to reach, will have a chance to grab the Windows 7 Release Candidate via the company's official channels once it comes out.
Windows 7 Release Candidate
Sinofsky has confirmed that all the post-Beta Windows 7 development milestones are Release Candidate builds of the operating system. However, the Windows boss denied that Windows 7 had reached the Build 7048 mark. Sinofsky stated that ahead of the weekend Microsoft was working on Windows 7 Build 7046, a release which had not been compiled at that time. Still, this is proof that Build 7048 was a fake, and that, at this point in time, it doesn't even exist. The initial Windows 7 roadmap leaked to the public indicated that Windows 7 RC was right on target for April 2009.