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Will Windows 7 be another driver disaster?

Friday, 2 November 2007 windows

As Linux and OSX toddle on, catering for every hardware device under the sun, Windows 7 looks like it’s going to have a complete refresh of drivers, effectively taking it back to square 1 in the game of hardware support.

I know I’m getting this bout of smashing in particularly early but the Microsoft developers are getting excited about Windows 7. In the video below, Eric Traut gives a brief look (after a woefully inaccurate history lesson) at the core of Windows 7. It’s a kernel and small webserver dubbed MinWin. If you’ve seen it already or it holds no interest to you, scroll on by and I’ll start the slander-machine.

Okay so Windows 7 is a long way off. A damned long way off. The dust from Vista has yet to settle but the less I use it (in favour of my beautiful Ubuntu install), the more I despise Vista. Linux isn’t without its share of issues but I know I can either fix it with a bit of Googling or there’s hope that it’ll get fixed in the not too distant future. I’m more likely to ascend than MS listening to my problems.

My godhood aside, MS, like Symantec, are slowly hearing the global voice: it’s bloated! Stripping Windows back to formula is, in my opinion — and seemingly that of the Windows kernel team, the only way to address the numerous security issues and the lagging performance; the problem is it’s going to totally Raj-up compatibility.

I don’t think I need to remind anybody over the stream of incompatibilities Vista has seen. There are still issues especially with some hardware makers refusing to upgrade their XP drivers to Vista because it’s just too much hassle and we’re almost 12 months since Vista went “Gold”. Another major step for the NT kernel would likely mean that all third-party drivers written for previous Windows version become useless — moreso than XP drivers become in Vista.

I’m not sure the Windows user-base could take a hit like that and the only way I can see for MS to fix this is money or some furious back-peddling. They could pay for manufacturers to get their arses in gear (something that didn’t happen in Vista’s run-up or they leave significant portions of the kernel in tact and functionally-identical to Vista or XP.

It’s certainly something to keep in mind as both the Mac and Linux platforms furnish their driver library for every device in existence.