Windows 7 and the mobile computer


This week is the big PDC show that Microsoft puts on annually and the excitement has appeared all over.  Microsoft made it clear pre-show that this would be the official first look at Windows 7 and attendees would be given the alpha version of the OS to take home and play with.  We have been following everything that has been emerging about Windows 7 at the PDC, especially the parts that affect mobile computing.  That’s no surprise given the passion we have for mobile PCs.

What we have seen so far makes us think that as far as the mobile PC is concerned, Windows 7 will provide… well, it’s not too clear.  One of the biggest concerns we have with Vista is that it is too big and all-encompassing for lesser mobile PCs and we’ve even called for a Vista Lite version that works better with netbooks and the like.  Word had leaked some time ago that Windows 7 would take a modular approach allowing users to only install the bits they need for a given PC.  This is exactly the right approach to take for mobile PCs and it would in effect create that Lite version we crave.

Microsoft appeared on stage at one of the keynotes with a netbook in hand to show how well it ran Windows 7.  This excited us and a host of others who could see first-hand that the next OS from Microsoft would indeed be a mobile computer’s delight.  Ars Tecnica interviewed Steve Sinofsky about this netbook and Windows 7 and after reading it a couple of times I’m more confused than ever about how well it may run on mobile PCs. 

We just want one system, one "Windows" that will work fine, and thenwe’ll… there are so many more features that we didn’t get a chance totalk about, but there are things that if you want to control more ofwhat’s installed, it’ll be easier. Not as much at setup time, it’ll bemore post-setup. It’s more of an advanced thing, when you’re justlaying down the disk you don’t want to ask 50 questions no oneunderstands. Although if you read our blog, lots of people think thatwould be really good to have this advanced setup.

So the modular approach sounds like it will be post-setup?  That means you install the whole thing and then manually go in later and remove what you don’t need for your netbook.  Isn’t that what we have now?  How does that improve the out-of-box-experience (OOBE) for Windows 7 on mobile computers?  The devil is in the details and we just don’t have any right now so it’s too early to tell if Microsoft has addressed anything yet.  We’re hoping.  In the meantime the SuperSite for Windows is a great place to learn all about Windows 7.  As they say it’s "Vista done right" although there are no doubt some who would call it "Vista done over".



Benjamin, I guess you and I just have different usages for a mobile computer. You sound more like you use it as your only system, so you’re looking for more of a desktop experience. I use it as a secondary system. I have a dual Xeon build sitting in the office for any heavy lifting I need.

I don’t need an indexed search, because I know where everything is on my portable. Pictures, some music, lots of documents. I know where they’re all stored.

On a mobile computer, I’d be happy with an embedded smartphone OS. I want a snappy, quick to life system that just does the web/email/document basics QUICKLY.

So far, the Foleo was actually most interesting to me. Next might be the MIE Linux build that HP is cooking up for January. If that doesn’t work, I’m nliting an XP build to as small a footprint as I can get it… :)


Thanks James. According to several posters at Ars Technica the NDA was lifted just prior to the keynote at PDC on Tuesday. Also, it’s my understanding that these NDAs aren’t worth the paper they’re written on once other sites have posted stories that break them. Anyway, if everyone else is writing about Windows 7 it seems a bit silly for JKOnTheRun to be ignoring it.

You don’t need to take this as a criticism. After all, I came here looking to see what you and Kevin had to say about the new software.


If Windows 7 can run as good as XP does on today’s netbooks, which is to say better than Vista, then I’m all for it. I’m fairly sure that MS has gotten the message about giving us an OS than can run just as well on a netbook as it does on a fire-breathing skulltrail.

Second, netbooks are still an emerging market. While many manufacturers are now introducing models, keep in mind that the CPU choices have been limited to the current Intel Atom, and that is mainly for performance reasons. This tells me that users still look for performance, not just to run the OS but to run all their apps, yet with a netbook somewhere along the line you’re going to have to sacrifice that performance to get the battery time, small size and light weigh.

In the long run I think it falls down to not only what MS can do with Windows 7 but also with what CPU manufacturers can produce for netbooks. Intel HAS to develop the Atom line, not only to provide a next gen Atom that is more powerful yet within the same TDP envelope, but pair it with a chipset/wireless solution that is also low TDP to match. With such a platform available to manufacturers, I would think tomorrow’s netbooks, those out by the time Windows 7 is released, will not only be running Windows 7 well, they will be as powerful as todays basic laptops.

With the XP restrictions finally gone, we will also get a new generation of netbooks – 8.9 and 10 inch screens with 1280 resolution, 2GB or more of ram on board, 64 bit environment, nice roomy hard drives and other more incredible features.

I think the fun hasn’t even begun!

James Kendrick

Jake, don’t assume we haven’t downloaded the pre-beta. We aren’t talking about it because in spite of the fact that no one seems to be honoring it the pre-beta is under an NDA. However, don’t overlook the fact that this is VERY early code and in no way resembles what will eventually be released. We haven’t ignored the PDC I assure you.


For more information about Windows 7’s OOBE and a discussion on removing Windows components I suggest you have a look at the Windows 7 blog at These things have been discussed in detail there so you can get an idea of how the Windows team is approaching them and making decisions about when is the best time to get users to pick the features they want.

If you want to see how Windows 7 runs on a netbook then perhaps you shouldn’t have ignored the whole Win7@PDC announcement and done what other sites like GottaBeMobile have done and downloaded your own copy of the pre-beta. There aren’t many tech sites that ignored this year’s PDC but it’s been pretty obvious that JKOnThRun wasn’t at all interested.

Benjamin Ries

See, Vance, I would totally keep the indexing feature on a mobile computer – especially if I can control the indexing process to only work through the HDD when I’m plugged in to a power outlet.

Indexed search, insofar as it is integrated into programs like Ink Seine and OneNote, mean I can find things faster on the go. Which means less time spent poking around trying to find stuff, which means less battery consumption. So long as bulk of the indexing is already done (during some time when the machine was plugged in#, it is a great mobility feature.

I feel the same about a lot of Vista features – they don’t cry out to be dumped from my ThinkPad. BitLocker makes sense for a mobile machine – more sense than a desktop PC in a secure location. Even Media Center seems like a great way to control media playback with touch, due to the large and simple targets.

My experience with mobile computers over the past decade seems to be this: as an OS gets old, OEMs add more and more applets #mostly in the system tray# to handle new hardware features that weren’t anticipated by the original OS. These applets bog down the system with a gazillion processes that can conflict with each other.

Then the next version of Windows comes out, and integrates a lot of the features and functionality that WAS being accomplished by the OEM add-ons. Some customization is sacrificed #ie. MS Bluetooth stack, umm, blows compared to Widcomm) but it all tends to be slimmer and more internally consistent.

So in some sense, don’t we want the OS bigger and more all-encompassing, so that we don’t have to run as much 3rd-party software?

Cody B

The complete OS on an image process and remove what you don’t want makes a lot of sense to me. You have to remember that when you buy a PC you’re not getting an image from Microsoft. You’re getting one from your manufacturer. Ever notice that all the drivers are installed out of the box, but you still have to give your machine a name and go through the setup process? The manufacturer takes the Microsoft version of the OS, tweaks it to have a great out of the box experience, then runs a sys prep process, and then pushes that image to every PC of that model. Now that you understand/remember that process you can see how a manufacture might get rid of all the fat that PC doesn’t need before it gets sent to the user giving them a great out of the box experience and a snappy OS.

Now let’s look at the other workflow of putting down an OS. You buy parts and build your PC. You insert the OS disk to install it. Instead of an hour install of Microsoft only installing what you want, it can push an image down to the HD in less than 10 minutes. Allowing you to log on for the first time another 5 minutes after that. Once the image is down you can wipe out anything and everything you don’t want. It gets the OS deployed much faster. Removing parts you don’t need is just optimizing the OS. Besides, name an OS you didn’t have to tweak after a fresh install anyway.


I would eliminate whatever the frack it is that causes my harddrive to grind away for fifteen minutes after starting up. Slows EVERYTHING down with it. Unacceptable.

The indexing is clearly a feature for a desktop system that is on all the time. Not for a mobile computer.

Benjamin Ries

Though there seems to be something of a consensus among netbook and ultraportable users that they want a mobile subset of “full-blown” Windows for PCs, I have yet to see anything like a consensus on what that subset would be.

Which features would you eliminate, based on current Vista? I’m not sure that I would eliminate anything. Maybe we just need better hardware instead?


I do not think it’s even physically possible for a new Windows to be a mobile system, given their commitment to legacy hardware and every printer driver under the sun.

I also remember when Microsoft boasted that Vista would turn on and off as quickly as a television set. Look how that turned out.

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