Microsoft distributed a pre-beta version of Windows 7, the next version of its desktop operating system, at the company's Professional Developers' Conference today.
Due to ship by January 2009, the operating system is based on the code in Windows Vista. One of the major changes is the user interface, where Microsoft has built in support for touch-sensitive displays. This enables users to move the mouse by dragging their finger across the screen. The touch-sensitive user interface could lead to the development of PC applications that can use it.
In addition, Microsoft has extended its Bitlocker encryption technology to support portable storage devices.
Microsoft said users will also be able to connect securely to Windows Server 2008 networks without the need for a VPN.
While Microsoft plans to ship new operating systems every three years, it expects to upgrade some components more regularly. John Curran, head of the Windows Client group at Microsoft, said, "Some Windows components like the photo gallery, MovieMaker video editing tool, Mail, Contacts and Calendar programs will have an accelerated software development cycle."
He said these products would be made available free as part of Microsoft's Windows Live Essential service.