Windows 7 Demo Focuses on Touch Interface

A touch user interface turned out to be the big surprise in Windows 7, the latest operating system being developed by Microsoft. The OS is expected to appear in either late 2009 or early 2010, but it was demonstrated last night at "D6: All Things Digital," a Wall Street Journal-sponsored event being held this week in Carlsbad, Calif. The demo was part of stage appearance by Microsoft's Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer.

An abbreviated transcript of Gates and Ballmer's onstage talk, as well as a video replay of the Windows 7 touch interface demo, can be accessed here.

The interface lets users size windows with their fingers, as well as objects such as photos. You can magnify maps on the Internet and zoom into areas of interest in the same way. There's also a drawing capability that Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Windows Experience Program Management, demonstrated with her fingers. A similar interface has been demonstrated as part of Microsoft's Surface project, which enables touchable horizontal and vertical screens.

The Windows 7 interface has been compared with that used in Apple's iPhone, and Ballmer was questioned about Apple's jump on Microsoft with the next version of Mac OS X, which will be released before Windows 7. Ballmer said in reply to a question about Apple's recent gains on PCs in the market that "We sell 270 millions PCs a year, and Apple sells 10 million. They're fantastically successful, and so are we."

Ballmer also talked about Microsoft's current bid to acquire Yahoo's search engine technology, reiterating that Microsoft has backed away from buying all of Yahoo. The company wanted to acquire Yahoo to expand Microsoft's share in the search advertising business. Currently, Microsoft is positioned in third place in search use, behind Google and Yahoo.

"To accelerate scale [in search], it made sense for us to consider a Yahoo acquisition," Ballmer is quoted as saying. "The truth of the matter is, if nobody else gets scale except the current leader, what happens?…Some day all the ads for The Wall Street Journal Online might be sold by one guy and he'll tell you exactly how much your editorial is worth."

Even though Microsoft now seeks something less than a full acquisition of Yahoo, Ballmer reiterated that Microsoft reserves the right to revisit its acquisition bid for the company, according to the transcript.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.