Windows® 7 – The Beginning
Unprecedented marketing binge launched by Microsoft has put Windows 7 on everybody’s lips. The newest avatar of the storied operating system has generated insatiable curiosity and queries regarding features, pricing, enhancements and security. Such a euphoria demands an in-depth flash back, unraveling the making and culmination of the phenomenon called Windows 7.
The seed of Microsoft’s latest operating system was sown during the time of the launch of Windows Vista itself. The software giant had already devised a plan and by the year 2000 it had considered delivering a follow-up to its most remarkable OS till date, Windows XP, along with its long-time associate server Windows Server 2003. This combination was codenamed Whistler.
Blackcomb and Longhorn
The prospective follow-up, titled Blackcomb, had the makings of a major release and was scheduled to be launched anytime in 2005.
With the blueprint of the version in hand, Microsoft set high goals to make the Blackcomb project a "class-of-its-own". The company was looking to incorporate major features into it. There was a continuous stress on data search and querying apart from an emphasis on an advanced storage system called WinFS. However, all was not well with Blackcomb and it was delayed, paving way for a provisional, minor release of the project, codenamed Longhorn.
This minor release was slated for release in 2003. It had a robust entry and by the middle of the release year, it had acquired some features that were set for Blackcomb. This included WinFS, the Desktop Window Manager and a host of other new system components devised and designed on the .NET Framework.
As things started to brighten up and positive streaks of triumph was sensed everywhere, another calamity struck Microsoft. The infamous "Summer of Worms" - of the year 2003 when three major viruses shook the world by storm - exposed the mediocrities and flaws in the Windows Operating System. The three viruses - Blaster, Sobig and Welchia - struck in so short a time that the software giant had no option but to completely restructure its development priorities and suspend its work on Longhorn. It had to quickly get its act together to develop new Service Packs for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
Windows 7 – The naming
The next best thing Microsoft could do was to "reset" Longhorn and its development work till September 2004. A flurry of changes followed this resolution - prominent among them was wounding up the work on Windows Vista in early 2006 and the renaming of Blackcomb to Vienna. After more than one year, in the summer of 2007, there was news and confirmation from Microsoft that an internal name for its next Windows Client operating system would be called Windows 7. This confirmation was pelted out following the release of Windows Vista. And without much ado, Microsoft announced on October 13, 2008 that the official name for its next Operating System would be Windows 7. It chose to keep it simple as it had to stay rooted to its obligations towards Windows Vista.
And well, for the origin of its name, being the seventh Operating System Microsoft was releasing in its history of developing operating systems, the decision makers found it quite appropriate to adopt this name and brought it under its fold.
While the buzz on Windows 7 was making rounds everywhere, Microsoft was constantly striving to fine-tune and develop its significant investments in cementing the platform technology it had earmarked for Windows Vista. This was an important factor in taking a step forward towards the next generation of Windows Operating Systems.
It looked like Microsoft was headed for something really concrete this time. It had a solid name for its next operating system for starters, and with no hiccups and interruptions to spoil the party, Microsoft quickly changed gears to focus on the features of its proposed project.
Little was spelt out or revealed by its representatives to the general public though. However, the software giant kept on hinting on the prospects of incorporating "new user interface paradigm for customers" and stressed on the concept of making it "more user-centric". With time, the promises to deliver increased with more focus directed towards easier passages for moving information and the deployment of the Live Services application aimed at enhancing the "user-centric" capabilities. It also laid emphasis on parallel computing. This feature would enable "synchronized" transferring of files from one computer to another curbing the hassle of moving data back and forth. The incompatibility encountered by Windows Vista with softwares and applications, and the imperative task to correct this flaw was also an important target hinted by Microsoft with the resulting solution aimed at an easy migration from Vista to Windows 7 for users. To sum it up, the company was working on an improved version of Windows Vista.
The Builds of Windows 7 - From Milestones to Release to Manufacture
Â Till now, we looked into the development of concepts and ideas working behind Windows 7. Following section of the article will now give shape to quest on how those concepts and the ideas took a concrete form. It will be a journey right from the time when a first known build was identified in the form of a Milestone to the final build in RTM (Release to Manufacture).
It was in January 2008 when the first build of Windows 7 was released to its key partners. It was launched in two versions, x86 and x86-64, with the version number 6519. It was identified as Milestone 1 (M1), hence the tag of a "milestone". It brought with it the ability to enable a new taskbar. It had the propensity to pin and unpin items harbored in the Start menu. However, in April 2008, there was a huge uproar over the leak of screenshots and videos over the second build of Milestone 1. It was leaked with a version number of 6.1.6574. This build had a couple of changes, for example, it made changes to Windows Explorer along with bringing a new Windows Health Center.
Following the Milestone 1, Microsoft was quick to launch Milestone 2 in April-May 2008. There was a lot of excitement when it was demonstrated with a build number of 6.1.6589.1.winmain_win7m2.080420-1634 at the D6 Conference. It brought with it the first changes to the Taskbar that was designed to be different from the one in Windows Vista. It magnified the use of dividing the sections in features into different colors.
Subsequently, Milestone 3 was released in September 2008 with similar appearances of Vista but it had the ribbon interface which had similarities with the one in Microsoft Outlook 2007. Milestone 3 had the version number 6780.
This version, Build 6801, was released at the Professional Developers Conference by Microsoft. Although it was launched on October 28, 2008, its screenshots were already leaked on the Internet by the first half of October. In fact, to be precise, it was leaked out on October 8. A few days later, on October 13, 2008, there was a declaration from Microsoft (as mentioned earlier), that the new Operating System to be released by them would be called Windows 7.
A few days later, the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, confirmed that the Windows Vista would be compatible with Windows 7. It was with this confirmation, that he declared that Windows 7 would be an improved version of Windows Vista. Anyway, going back to the Pre-Beta Build x86 and x64, which was also called the PDC build, owing to its distribution at the Professional Developers Conference, another significant event at the same conference was the demonstration of another build version, Build 6933. But this build version was not distributed at the conference unlike the Build 6801.The Build 6801 brought about significant changes to the Taskbar, most importantly in enabling its functionality. But interestingly, most of the features in this version were later scrapped off by Microsoft in its later versions. However, the Taskbar in Build 6933 was let off with an option that it might be included in the final release of Windows 7.
Following this event, there were a host of other builds which came out in quick succession. These builds made their entry from the time spanning from November to December 2008. Build 6936 had its images leaked on the Internet after its screenshots were revealed by WinFuture. Later on, the official Windows 7 build 6936 x64 was also leaked to the web.
Build 6948 was released on a blog and its screenshots was posted on an Engineering Windows 7 blog by Microsoft. Build 6954 was rumored to have an animated boot-screen which can be customized by OEMs. Then Build 6956 had an interesting leak entry from a Windows Conference in China. It appeared as a VHD. An employee at the conference had leaked the build 6956 x86.
The Windows 7 Beta screenshots were leaked before it was even released. By December 23, 2008, the Windows 7 Beta with a version number 7000 was all over the Internet. A few days later, Windows 7 Beta x86 version was also not spared. On December 27, 2009, leaked version of the x86 version was everywhere. Torrent sites were a good platform for its leak and thereafter, it went to leak into many other FTPs. The 64-bit version of Windows 7 Beta also found its way to the Internet. By January 7, 2009, it was released to TechNet and also to MSDN subscribers.
Amidst all these chaos, the “public” Windows 7 Beta was finally released on January 7, 2009 and existing installations operated till August 1, 2009. Bi-hourly shutdowns of Windows 7 Beta started on July 1. However, both the 64-bit and the 32-bit versions were made available from February 10, 2009 due to delays resulting from an overwhelming response to the product from the public.
The release of the Build version 7022 was marked by a number of unprecedented events. An employee from the Microsoft branch in Ukraine leaked the x86 version of Build 7022 on the Internet that was accessible through file sharing sites. This happened on February 8, 2009. A little under a month later on March 1, 2009, the x64 version of this build was also let out into the Internet. There was a lot of effort going into this build and it lived up to a lot of expectations. It gave a much better performance than Beta 1 and the web browser Internet Explorer 8 was updated on to it, i.e. the RC1.
The Windows Desktop Gadget got a shot in the arm with the induction of new features like new animation effect and icons. It also enabled a faster set-up process while bringing about changes to Paint. After all the commotion and leakage issues and updates, the build 7022 was finally completed on January 15, 2009.
The month of March 2009 saw the entry of the 64-bit build 7048 and the 32-bit build 7048. They were both leaked on March 2 and 6 respectively. It introduced a number of changes - the most prominent among them was its unique ability to turn off functions. The functionality of features in Windows like the Windows Media Player, Windows Search, and the Internet Explorer could be turned off completely from the Control Panel. It also had the provision for a new Startup Menu along with sounds and backgrounds.
A few service providers did some performance tests on a comparison between the Build 7000 and Build 7048. In response, they got a far better performance from Build 7048 as compared to Build 7000. Earlier, in February, 36 major user-visible changes were brought about in Windows 7 by Microsoft ever since the Beta. These changes were highlighted earlier on the ability to turn off functions completely.
The Build 7057 was completed on March 5, 2009. It came with a new logon screen. The UAC was also revamped with security fixes. Its x86 and x64 versions were leaked on the Internet on March 11 and 19, 2009, respectively. After that Build 7068 arrived. This build was completed on March 21, 2009. It came with a larger hard drive database and was made available only to select Microsoft Connect testers. Its x86 and x64 versions were also leaked on March 27 and March 28, 2009, respectively.
There was another leak from the relative of a Microsoft employee and the Build 7077 32-bit version came into being on April 7, 2009. It was basically an RC escrow build. Two days later, it's 64-bit version was also leaked.
The Release Candidate 1 was made available to MSDN subscribers along with TechNet subscribers on April 30, 2009. It was open to the public on May 5, 2009. OEM partners along with TAP gold testers were handed out the Release Candidate. The RC 1 with the version number, Build 7100, was also leaked before it was released.
It was removed on August 20, 2009 from the Microsoft Website but its Product keys were available to users till October 21, 2009. A significant change was brought about in RC 1 with an update in it on May 26, 2009 wherein 31 languages were accessible through a download that was made available from a Windows Update.
Subsequently, Release Candidate 2 of Windows 7 was released with a version number of Build 7200. On April 2, 2009, the Build 7106 was leaked in the Chinese language in both the x86 and x64 versions. This was followed by a leak in the English language in the Language Packs of the same build. This build was completed from the RC branch even before the release of Build 7077.
Pre-Release to Manufacturing
There was a long list of Builds after this from May till June, 2009. Leading the way was Build 7127 which was available to Microsoft Connect Testers. It's 32-bit and 64-bit versions were leaked to Torrent sites. It was built on May 7, 2009. Then came the first known Service Pack 1 build - 7138 – which was released on May 23, 2009. After that the Build 7137 was leaked on May 28. Build 7201 leaked on June 3, 2009 in both versions after it was built on June 1, 2009.
The Build 7229 followed, which came with Language Packs on Torrent sites was built on June 4, 2009 and leaked on June 11, 2009 in both the versions. The next build was attached to the Winmain sp branch. It was a precursor to the Service Pack 1 build as it made preliminary changes on it. This build, Build 7227, was built on June 2, 2009. It was, later, leaked in VHD formats in its x86 version on June 9, 2009. Soon after, the latest available Service Pack 1 build came into being in the form of Build 7230. It was built on June 9, 2009.
Build 7231 and 7232 built on June 8 and June 10, 2009 respectively were both leaked in the x86 and x64 versions through the VHD formats. The latter replaced the betta fish wallpaper with a new one. The betta fish wallpaper was the default wallpaper in both the Beta and RC. Another build to leak through the VHD format was Build 7260. Built on June 12, 2009, it was leaked on June 17. Yet another build that came with Language Packs on Torrent sites was Build 7264. It also leaked in both the x86 and x64 versions on June 30, 2009 after it was built on June 22, 2009.
The Build 7600.16384 was an important one built on July, 2009. It was leaked two days later in both the x86 and x64 versions when it was uploaded on an OEM copy. This was a copy given to Lenovo of the Windows 7 Ultimate Edition build 7600. The copy had a disc image which had the important boot.wim file. It is usually given to PC manufacturers who pre-activate PC's in a factory. The OEM Activation certificate and the product key were both attached with the file. These two have the ability to activate Windows 7 Build in many computer brands like Dell and HP.
However, the authenticity of the product key and the question on if it would be able to make a safe passage from Microsoft's Genuine Advantage check is uncertain as it could be blacklisted. If this problem arises, then there will be a huge task on the hands of OEMs as they will have no option but to recollect all manufactured PCs that have been installed and activated with the blacklisted product key and they would have to install it altogether with a different key.
Release to Manufacturing
Finally, the last build of Windows 7 RTM came with a version number of 7600. It was completed on July 13, 2009 and its extended build string read 7600.16385.win7_rtm.090713-1255.
In the following week, Microsoft rolled out Windows 7 to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). It was passed on to System Builders as well. It was followed by releasing Windows 7 through downloads to MSDN and then to subscribers at TechNet by August 6, 2009. From August 7, 2009 all companies who bought Software Assistance have been given the green light to download Windows 7 Release to Manufacturing (RTM). Language packs in Windows 7 RTM have been made available through a Windows update from the August 25, 2009.
From August 16, 2009 Microsoft Certified and Microsoft Gold Certified Partners have been able to avail the services of Windows 7. This was followed by the license to Microsoft Action pack subscribers to avail the service from August 23, 2009. For companies who have a contract with Software Assurance, Windows 7 have been available for volume licensing. This was passed on September 1, 2009.
And finally, Windows 7 will be made available for everyone from the day of its release i.e. October 22, 2009.