Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Windows stripped naked

"So that's kind of proof that there is actually a pretty nice little core inside of Windows." This was a pretty cool statement. Have you had a chance to watch Eric Taut's presentation on the concepts of Windows 7 and virtualization strengthening into Windows? If you missed, watch it here.

Eric Traut is the right person to hear about Windows kernel from, not only because he leads the core team of about 200 engineers which is primarily responsible for Windows kernel and core technologies, but also because he knows enough that we would like to know. During the presentation, he does not hesitate to admit the importance of Linux for companies around the world and neither degrades the essence of Photoshop. But as he leads through the concept of virtualization and how Windows is going to embrace it, we realize that lately Microsoft has become aware of sharing its pride of being the best. Surely for the good.

Eric demos a tiny stripped core kernel of Windows NT loading in cute ASCII bootscreen which is just 25 MB in size and 40 MB of RAM, but is enough to run a simple http server. He calls it MinWin. Microsoft is stripping Windows to its tiny neat core and building it again from there, layer by layer, reusing code wherever usable. And they are not in a hurry. The next big release is scheduled for 2010 which is codenamed "Windows 7". Eric explains how Microsoft would like to provide a true VM concept based OS as he runs multiple versions of Windows (it was cool to see Windows 1 and 2 in action). The "hypervisor" is a small kernel (about 75,000 lines of code) that uses software partitions where guest operating systems go. If you find it difficult to watch the approx 1 hour video of Traut's presentation, check out this nine minute video of Minwin.

Letting go of the bulky Vista-size cluttered system and starting it afresh with better concepts from the core than its legendary polishing practice is bound to get Microsoft good competence, the same benefit that open source industry reaped by releasing the kernel to let poeple polish it at the core. Many would say Microsoft is borrowing ideas from open source. But I would say if Microsoft gave the world the concept of user-centric operating system, it has the right to evolve through time. Good news, it is starting now! The revival must not have been delayed further with ruling threats from Linux community.