windows7_v_webCAMBRIDGE — Windows 7 is here. The launch party for Boston was in Cambridge on Thursday, and students even got free copies of the operating system. There will be Blast photos from that event later.

We talked to Marty Cassidy, the general manager of the northeast district for Microsoft, about what makes Windows 7 tick. Here’s what we got:

BLAST: For people that downgraded or stayed with Windows XP, what will be the biggest differences between XP and 7 for users?

MICROSOFT: For current XP users, there are several reasons to upgrade to Windows 7, including enhancements to security, networking and search.

  • Security: while Microsoft prides itself on software security measures, the security levels have increased from XP to Vista to Windows 7 making it the most secure operating system on the market today.
  • Networking: previously networking all devices took a few extra steps that were challenging for some: now with Windows 7, connecting to a network can be done with a simple click of the mouse.
  • Search: with the ability to search across various networks, Windows 7 takes the search for files to the next step. Search functions can also utilize Internet Explorer 8 to provide assistance to those users looking for computer help.

BLAST: What about Windows gaming on 7?

MICROSOFT: Games Explorer is the center for gaming on Windows 7, providing information about games, such as game play statistics, ratings and requirements. In addition, you can find new games or more information about online providers right from Games Explorer. Also, with the Game Update feature within Games Explorer, you can request to be notified whenever there are updates for your games. Parental Controls features also allow specification for which PC games your children can play.

If you’re a gamer, you know how graphics, sound and interaction capabilities are becoming richer. You probably also know that the hardware limitations of 32-bit PCs can limit the gaming experience. As more people opt for 64-bit PCs, new games will be able to take advantage of more robust and powerful processing. Because Windows 7 fully supports 64-bit PCs, you’ll be ready when they arrive.

As part of the newest DirectX Graphics Technology Platform, Direct3D 11 helps game developers create high performance games with richer, more realistic graphics. With a DirectX 11 compatible graphics card, you’ll be playing games with higher frame rates, more organic, realistic looking characters, smarter artificial intelligence, and more natural-looking effects. A large subset of the Direct3D 11 feature set is also available on existing DirectX 10-compatible graphics cards.

All games built to perform on Windows XP will remain available on XP mode.

BLAST: What are the top differences between Windows Vista and Windows 7?

MICROSOFT: Windows 7 builds upon innovative features from Windows Vista and feedback from our customers. The greatest difference users will notice with Windows 7 is that it works the way people want with less time needed for boot-up sequences and shut down. Some of the top differences include:

  • Better and faster performance: start-up times and boot-up sequences have been decreased as users interact with a faster and more efficient operating system
  • Increased integration beyond the operating system: Windows 7 has upgraded the pop-up message when connecting a device, as more drivers will be supported and more device-specific options including links to manufacturer’s website which will allow you to see additional related software that supports the device
  • Improved taskbar: Windows 7 will improve on the many advancements of Windows Vista by allowing for personalization of icons to display on the taskbar
  • Less storage requirement: storage requirement for the operating system has been nearly reduced by half
  • Multi-touch capability: users can interact directly with the PC through finger keystrokes
  • Enhanced media center: features include Internet TV with greater telecasting capabilities

BLAST: What are the brand new features in 7?

MICROSOFT: Microsoft continues to further innovation and produce technologies that people want to use and that will help manage their busy home and business lives. Many of the latest features in Windows 7 are designed to decrease search times while increasing access across multiple devices. Some of the highlights include:

  • Desktop: introducing improved taskbar previews, bigger icons and creative ways to personalize
  • HomeGroup: takes the headache out of home networking, so it’s easier to share files and printers
  • Jump lists: speedy access to your favorite pictures, songs, websites, and documents
  • Snap: a quick (and fun) new way to resize and compare windows on your desktop
  • Windows Live Essentials: must-have software for your PC — free. Get Mail, Photo Gallery, and other favorites
  • Windows Search: at last, searching your PC is as simple as searching
  • Performance improvements: it’s designed to sleep and resume quicker, be less memory hungry, and spot USB devices faster
  • Full 64-bit support: Windows 7 makes the most of powerful 64-bit PCs, the new desktop standard
  • Power management: new power-saving features are designed to help laptops run longer on battery
  • Easier wireless networking: Windows 7 gets you online in fewer clicks
  • Windows Media Center: watch, record, and pause live TV (additional hardware required)
  • Windows Touch: pair Windows 7 with a touch-sensitive PC and you won’t always need a keyboard or mouse

BLAST: What new programs/apps are there in Windows 7?

MICROSOFT: Those top applications that worked on previous operating systems will continue to operate on Windows 7 as new apps are being continuously developed. Many of the latest programs are designed to connect multiple units, creating greater collaboration amongst devices.

  • PC interaction – Windows Touch and improved handwriting recognition provide new and more direct ways of interacting with your PC
  • Navigation: the customizable taskbar presents previews in a larger, clearer format. You can get to documents, applications and tasks faster with jump lists
  • Home collaboration: creating a home group has easier set-up, easier file and media sharing across multiple PCs, along with one step printer sharing, simple security control
  • HomeGroup: connecting multiple devices and sharing music, photos, documents and more
  • Direct Access: this feature enables IT managers to provide mobile users with reliable and security-enhanced access to corporate network resources when they are on the Internet, without having to initiate a VPN connection. It also allows servicing and updating of remote PCs, even when they are on the road. This helps ensure that all mobile PCs are always up to date, and Windows Powershell means IT pros can automate many standard tasks to help reduce helpdesk costs, minimize user disruption and ease PC management. Direct Access is delivered by Windows 7 with Windows Server 2008 R2
  • BranchCache: delivered jointly by Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, this feature enables IT pros to decrease the time branch office users spend waiting to download files from remote servers by caching the previously accessed content locally in a branch’s network
  • Libraries: helps you find files faster. Gives users a single view of content across multiple sources

The Windows 7 upgrade edition costs $119 for the Home Premium version and $219 for the Ultimate edition. We highly recommend it.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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