Users to Microsoft: 'Just make Windows faster'

Continuing an unprecedented public dialog on the future of Windows begun last week, a Microsoft senior vice president admits that the request he's hearing most often from users is pretty simple: Speed it up.

Though we won't make it a point to post a story every time a Microsoft Senior Vice President, such as Steven Sinofsky or Jon DeVaan, issues an utterance about the next edition of Windows on its newly launched corporate blog, one statement from Sinofsky this morning will raise eyebrows: In response to the blog's inaugural call for ideas from the general public about what features they'd like to see in "Windows 7," he surprisingly acknowledged that many were more interested not so much in features but in behavior.

"The most frequent request," Sinofsky wrote, "was to discuss Windows performance and/or just 'make Windows faster.' There's a lot to this topic so we expect to talk about this quite a bit over the next months."

As one blog reader TimOR commented in response to Sinofsky last Thursday, "Vista really is a dog compared to XP performance-wise and compatibility-wise. Yes, it is prettier and it has the search facility. But its UAC, networking and compatibility just sux. I always turn UAC off it is so annoying. For overall compatibility and speed XP is still the gold standard for me. I truly hope Microsoft listens to its customers and makes Windows 7 everything Vista should have been - faster, as compatible (hardware and software) and easier to use than XP. (Hey, and dump the DRM bloat too - your customers don't need it!)."

As user shadow_concept noted the following day, "I'll probably post this multiple times until it gets noticed, but I really think windows 7 needs to be a super efficient core with plug-in style features. That way, as a gamer or just someone who needs all the speed he can get I can just run windows barebones, with only the applications I need."

His was not the only message suggesting that Windows could actually use a paring down -- a removal of features from the operating system package itself, perhaps separating them into separate products or even separate downloads.

As if to demonstrate shadow_concept's very point, Sinofsky's latest message demonstrated the complexity of the Microsoft project management scheme for Windows, listing 23 separate, main "feature teams," each with development managers and program managers, and implying the existence of even more.

"Some have said that the Windows team is just too big and that it has reached a size that causes engineering problems," Sinofsky wrote. "At the same time, I might point out that just looking at the comments there is a pretty significant demand for a broad set of features and changes to Windows. It takes a set of people to build Windows and it is a big project. The way that I look at this is that our job is to have the Windows team be the right size -- that sounds cliche but I mean by that is that the team is neither too large nor too small, but is effectively managed so that the work of the team reflects the size of the team and you see the project as having the benefits we articulate."

The senior VP came dangerously close to admitting that one of the reasons systems like Windows Vista end up with so many "features" is because so many teams are in existence whose job it is to come up with those features. He suggested that perhaps "optimizations" could eliminate some of this complexity, perhaps hoping that commenters could suggest places where such optimizations could take place. But he then cited a scene from the movie Amadeus, where Emperor Joseph II suggests that Mozart could do well to get rid of some of the notes in "The Marriage of Figaro," saying, "Cut a few and it will be perfect." Whereupon Mozart responds, "Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?"

For our own part last week, some BetaNews readers were in general agreement with Sinofsky's readers. As eunichman wrote, "I like the idea, a stripped down version of Windows 7, just the basics, no pretty fluff, no bloat, and hardware requirements way below that of the full blown bloatdows 7...Of course, the price would be significantly lower as well...Ahhh, lovely dream, won't happen."

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