Performance-improvement Integral to Windows 7, IE8

Fixing performance issues that have plagued previous versions of its Windows client OS and Internet Explorer (IE) browser are key development goals for the next versions of those products, Microsoft has revealed in company blogs.

IE 7 and Windows Vista have had serious performance problems early on that have alienated users and damaged the reputations of the products. Some IE users switched to Mozilla Firefox because of IE 7's frequent crashes and performance glitches, while Vista's bugs, incompatibility problems and other issues have been well-documented.

Microsoft is paying close attention to performance in Windows 7 and IE 8 as it develops both products, the company revealed in separate internal blogs about each product, "Engineering Windows 7" and "IEblog."

"We've re-dedicated ourselves to work in this area (performance) in Windows 7 (and IE 8)," according to the Engineering Windows 7 post. "This is a major initiative across each of our feature teams as well as the primary mission of one of our feature teams."

The company has an uphill battle to improving performance, particularly with Windows 7, said one analyst.

"I'm not surprised they're going to focus on performance," said Mike Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "I'm somewhat skeptical how much improvement they're going to make at this point."

He suggested Microsoft consider performance for Windows 7 the way it approached security when the company decided to make that a key priority for Vista. When Microsoft decided security was integral to the OS, the company engineered Vista so "every feature has a security attribute to it," Cherry said.

Similarly, the company should make performance such a priority that "anyone checking any code into Windows 7 not only has to make sure it's the most secure code and the most reliable code, but they'd better be addressing the performance of the code as well," he said.

While performance is made up of "many elements," the Windows 7 team is focusing on six areas of improvement in Windows 7, according to the post. They are memory usage, CPU utilization, disk I/O, the boot-shutdown-standby-resume feature, the base system and disk footprint.

CPU (central processing unit) utilization in particular is a problem in Vista, and could use improvement in Windows 7. Cherry said he runs a 32-bit version of Vista on a PC with a 64-bit processor and 2G bytes of RAM. However, when he starts his Outlook e-mail client, it uses 100 percent of his CPU resources for more than a minute and a half. "It blows me away," he said of the problem.

Indeed, Microsoft said a key engineering goal for Windows 7 is to "keep the CPU utilization low as that improves multi-user scenarios as well as reduces power consumption," according to the Windows 7 blog post.

The focus of IE 8 improvements, according to the IEblog post, will be how to make pages and images load faster for "everyday" browsing. This will require improvements to scripting, the rendering engine and networking improvements, among others, the company said.

Microsoft has said it expects to release Windows 7 in early 2010; however, the company has not provided a time frame for the final release of IE8, though it is safe to say it likely will be a part of the Windows 7 release. Microsoft released IE8 beta 2 on Wednesday.

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