Microsoft: MinWin and Performance Changes in Windows 7
In following up my earlier post, More About Windows 7 Performance, I asked Microsoft this question last weekend:
Have there been memory footprint, background services refinement or elimination, or other performance/reliability changes made to the core of the OS that is Windows 7? We’ve been told in the past that the kernel has not been changed from Vista. But Windows 7 is supposed to run properly and well on netbooks. And reviewers all over are saying that Windows 7 is faster. The enterprise guide (online) says that performance is a key tenet for Windows 7. What has been changed in Windows 7 that makes it faster, more reliable, or gives it a smaller memory footprint?
I also asked whether Windows 7 contains “MinWin,” the somewhat romanticized slimmer, componentized version of the Windows kernel, an effort that began with the Windows 2003 Server product. Speculation about the inclusion of MinWin in Windows 7 was fueled by stories like this one in Softpedia.
Microsoft, through its PR agency, released the following brief statement to me as its only meaningful response. The company is gathering information for the press about Windows 7 technical changes and is not prepared to give me an interview on that subject yet. Redmond offered this basic statement about MinWin and the notion of major kernel redevelopment for Windows 7, for now:
“MinWin isn’t anything formal. It isn’t even necessarily a thing as much as it is a design tactic. It is an informal word describing the goal to increase the componentization of the OS through combining common binaries within the core of the OS. This is something that was first mentioned in 2003 and the idea has evolved to present day. So the basic answer is no, Microsoft didn’t create a new kernel for Windows 7. Microsoft is refining the kernel architecture and componentization model introduced in Windows Vista. This means our ongoing efforts that started with Windows Vista will increase the independence of individual components without changing the functionality of those components. This makes it possible for Microsoft to make future changes to specific components more quickly than before because the effects of those changes will be better isolated. These changes will increase engineering agility, and keep the user experience intact without application-compatibility issues.”
Here’s how I read this statement: Microsoft’s biggest concern in saying that Windows 7 has a revamped kernel is that enterprises will be concerned about software-compat and even possibly device-driver issues. That was one of the big enterprise sticking points for Vista. The overriding marketing message from Microsoft has to be that Windows 7 will be compatible with software and drivers that run well on Vista. The “design tactic” that MinWin describes is a pretty major revision to the Vista kernel. I applaud the design direction, though. It makes total sense, and it really might reduce compatibility issues. I also believe that performance may well be improved by this “refining of the kernel architecture” in the final release of Win 7.
What’s more, performance has to be a strong underlying design goal for Windows 7. Code bloat and performance slow-downs have been an essential part of the Vista experience for millions of end users — and that has been a large factor in lackluster Vista sales. The word of mouth hasn’t been good. Microsoft has conceded, internally at least, that it has to make Windows 7 perform more like a sporty car than a four-cylinder pickup truck. It’s the message within the message, but it’s more of a consumer message. As such, Microsoft is probably content with the early performance buzz it’s getting from the public beta. But I suspect we’ll hear a lot more about Win 7 performance as we get closer to the ship date. But I would caution you not to be too sucked in by the gee-whiz “reviews” of Windows 7 we’ve seen to date.