Microsoft joined with Intel in a Sept. 1 press conference to claim that Windows 7 will offer better processor performance and battery life than Windows Vista. Both companies have a deeply vested interest in the new operating system, due for release on Oct. 22, being a substantial hit among businesses and consumers alike.
The entire conference was keyed to demonstrate how the collaboration between Microsoft and Intel will result in a speedier Windows 7, with the operating system taking advantage of processing features such as Intel's multicore capability.
During the presentation in San Francisco, representatives from both companies did a side-by-side comparison of two identically configured ThinkPad T400 notebooks running Vista and Windows 7, with the Windows 7 machine experiencing 20 percent longer battery life. This boost in efficiency, Microsoft claimed, is due to "timer coalescing," which increases the average processor idle period in order to save energy.
For that battery test, Windows 7 ran on a "Montevina" platform. A hyperthreading demonstration was conducted using the "Lynnfield" version of Core i7, while the companies relied on a "Bloomfield" version of Core i7 for a virtualization demo. Intel's 32-nanometer "Westmere" was later used in an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) security demonstration. In each case, Windows 7 was shown to operate at speeds up to 11 times those of Vista.
Executives from both companies, though, were quick to caution that individual device configuration would ultimately decide the degree of performance improvement.
"We're achieving a very significant amount of battery savings," Microsoft Principal Program Manager Ruston Panabaker said during the event, while declining to attach a hard number to Windows 7's overall efficiency improvement over Vista.
The executives also demonstrated a PC running Windows 7, equipped with a solid-state drive, booting up within 11 seconds. That boot demonstration relied on Intel's Core i7 for processing power. Again, however, the specifications of an individual Intel-equipped PC will ultimately govern features such as boot time, they said.
The show of solidarity by Intel and Microsoft comes at a pivotal moment for both companies. A Windows-driven tech refresh by small and midsize businesses and the enterprise would directly benefit Intel, which is perhaps why the company has spent the summer touting Windows 7 as far superior to Vista. In July, Intel Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Sean Maloney predicted that Windows 7 would spread more quickly through the enterprise than Vista, and said the operating system will bring improved security, power management and "compatibility mode."
"We think it makes overwhelming sense if you have a 3-year-old PC to replace the thing, for security violations, virus, power consumption, etc., etc., etc.," Maloney told the Intel Technology Summit on July 29. "Windows 7 is one big positive."
The comments also represented something of a sea change in the relationship between Intel and Microsoft's operating systems. In 2008, Intel famous refused to internally deploy Vista, a public-relations fiasco for Microsoft, which was already wrestling with negative public perception about the operating system.
At the time of the Intel Technology Summit, an Intel spokesperson confirmed to eWEEK that the company was already in the process of adopting Windows 7 for its own internal use.
Despite generally positive buzz surrounding the operating system, the biggest obstacle to rapid adoption of Windows 7 may be the lingering economic recession. Although Microsoft has been pushing a series of price cuts and retailer promotions designed to put copies of the operating system in as many hands as possible following its Oct. 22 launch, a 1,000-company survey published by ScriptLogic over the summer showed that about 60 percent of businesses will likely not upgrade to Windows 7 immediately, with many citing "a lack of time and resources" as the major contributing factor.
However, that same survey suggested that nearly 40 percent of surveyed businesses will have Windows 7 integrated and running within their IT infrastructure by the end of 2010. Widespread adoption of the operating system would help Microsoft reverse a downward trend in revenues, which dipped 17 percent year over year in the financial fourth quarter of 2009.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated with information about the Intel processors used during the presentation.