Sadly following in Vistas footsteps, Windows 7 will come in a lot of flavors. Everything interesting about Windows 7 will be in the Software Assurance-backed Enterprise iteration. (Available in volume licenses as small as five-pack!) Little of what is interesting about Windows 7 will be in the Professional version.
With Windows 7, Microsoft is looking to solve the application compatibility woes that plagued Vista through virtualization. The Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise versions include XP Mode, a virtualized instance of the aging OS (with SP3). To run XP Mode, the computers CPU and BIOS must support hardware virtualization extensions.
Windows 7 stays in the business of protecting the OS from its users. User Access Controls are now configurable to keep annoying prompts at bay, while Ultimate and Enterprise users will have the option to run only permitted applications via Group Policy and AppLocker.
Ultimate and Enterprise users can encrypt full hard disks via BitLocker or removable drives with BitLocker ToGo. Windows 7 automatically prepares an active boot drive by default during installation, so users dont have to plan for full disk encryption right out of the gate.
Integration with Server
For the first time since Windows 2000, Microsoft had the opportunity to develop a client and server OS in parallel. When used with the new Windows Server 2008 R2, Win 7 opens the door for interesting new applications like VPN replacement technology Direct Access. However, R2 is 64-bit-only, so getting there could take additional planning.
The new remote access solution—which promises always-on connectivity to Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate clients wherever they may be connected—leverages IPv6 for connectivity and IPSec for integrity and security. Direct Access does support a number of workaround technologies for clients without IPv6 access or for those behind a firewall.
An optional, for-pay add-on pack for Enterprise customers with Software Assurance, MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack) adds APP-V application virtualization, MED-V virtual desktop technology, a diagnostic and recovery toolset, and advanced group policy functionality such as versioning, history and rollback.
Ferreting out exactly where a users trouble starts is always hard, but with Windows 7s Problem Steps Recorder (psr.exe), admins can see exactly what a user is going through. The user starts a recording session, which proceeds to track every application used, click made and step taken. A textual record and screen shots of all the steps are then zipped up into a single file.
Enterprise Search Scope
Windows 7 leverages federated search (based on OpenSearch 1.1) to locate data from file servers, SharePoint servers or Web applications across the domain. Via Group Policy, administrators can pre-populate shortcuts to commonly searchable resources in users Start menu or the Windows Explorer interface.
Microsoft still isnt committing to a release date other than "sometime in 2009." But the latest scuttlebutt leans toward an August Release to Manufacturing for mid-October availability.