Is Windows 7 really Vista SP2 in disguise?

If you're hoping that Windows 7 will bring dramatic changes to Windows, you may well be disappointed. More and more evidence shows that Windows 7 may only be the equivalent of a Vista SP2.

Microsoft is largely remaining silent about what will be in Windows 7, but it looks as if no major changes are in the offing. As I wrote in my blog yesterday, Microsoft has said that it's not developing a new kernel for Windows 7, and it has said that the hardware, software, and peripherals that work with Vista will also work with Windows 7.

Microsoft has said that Windows 7 will include something called pervasive multi-touch. That's a fancy way of saying that you'll be able to run the operating sytem and its underlying applets via a touch screen.

That certainly doesn't get me excited. Microsoft has been touting touch screens and pen computing for as far back as I can remember, and no one seems to care. Sure, it will help with specialized applications, but for most business and home users, it simply doesn't matter.

Windows 7 will also ship with a new version of Internet Explorer, but that's on the drawing board anyway, and isn't necessarily tied to the operating system.

No doubt, there will be other changes as well. But if the kernel isn't being rewritten, and if all existing Vista hardware and software will work with Windows 7, there's a good chance you won't see any major changes to Windows.

Windows XP SP2, you may recall, added considerable new features to XP. It finally gave a firewall to Windows, introduced a pop-up blocker, introduced better wireless access and security, and more.

Those are all very significant changes --- and it's not clear that Windows 7 will offer as many new features as even SP2 did for XP.

So why bother giving the new version of Windows a new name, instead of calling it a Service Pack? Because Vista has gotten a tremendous amount of bad press, and this will be a way for Microsoft to put that behind it.

I hope that I'm wrong, and that we'll see plenty of new features in Windows 7. After all, we're still about a year-and-a-half away from shipping. But the signs right now don't look good.

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