updated 12:25 pm EDT, Wed September 17, 2008
Windows 7 Milestone 3
Microsoft's next major release of Windows may see the "ribbon" interface from Office 2007 spread throughout the operating system, veteran Microsoft-focused journalist Mary-Jo Foley reports in a new hands-on. The pre-beta Milestone 3 release of Windows 7 now shows the Office interface present in basic programs such as Paint and WordPad and would implement a similarly context-sensitive top bar that adds or removes options depending on the current mode. Microsoft has previously described the ribbon as a much-needed replacement for the tradition menu system, which it says sometimes hides important features due to sheer complexity.
Cosmetically, the software otherwise resembles Windows Vista at its current stage, according to Foley. Microsoft has previously used earlier versions of Windows as its rough prototype for XP and Vista, however, and usually only changes the graphics once the software nears or enters its beta phase.
The software also marks the return of a once-discared feature, now called HomeGroup, that would let users have a secure, consistent login across an entire local network without having to establish a dedicated domain server or otherwise use business-specific features. A child could log into any system but have the same user limits as on their normal PCs.
In addition to the feature change, the company is also likely to be switching out of its rough Milestone phase soon, Foley adds. Claimed sources suggest Milestone 3 is the last before a special preview version for developers this fall, while Beta 1 would be ready as early as mid-December.
The comparatively quick update schedule would suggest an accelerated release schedule for Microsoft, which isn't officially slated to launch Windows 7 until early 2010 but has faced a hostile reaction to Vista from both some home users as well as businesses reluctant to break compatibility and upgrade. In the past, Beta 2 has often followed followed just a few months after Beta 1 and is finished with one or more near-final release candidates.