The timing of this is a tad suspicious. Maybe this was planned weeks ago, as the start of a larger communications push; or maybe it was hastily put together in response to Mary Jo Foley's new book, in which she published the memo that replaced the traditionally clear panes of Windows for "translucent" stained glass. I don't know the answer. But Microsoft chose to break the silence on Windows 7 today, trotting Steven Sinofsky in front of News.com's Ina Fried (surprise surprise) for an interview.
Steven must be a very tough cookie to interview. No matter how hard Ina pushed for any kind of feature tidbit, Sinofsky stayed on message the whole time. I wish there was a video, so I could see how Steven reacted to all the questions posed that were trying to address the rumors. He did, however, reveal that Windows 7 will NOT be based on MinWin; instead it will be an evolution of the single Windows codebase that started with Vista and improved with Windows Server 2008. It will still come in both x86 and x64 editions, and is on track for a 2010 shipdate, which is three years after Vista's GA.
This is exactly why I haven't commented much on Windows 7 up to this point. One blogger posts rumor (for example, about MinWin) and rumor gets passed from blogger to blogger until it becomes "fact" in the eyes of tech press and bloggers. Microsoft never said MinWin was going to be the core of Windows 7, they just said it was a research kernel they were working on. Kernels take time to be developed. Any kernel that touches as many lives as Windows needs a LOT of work before it goes mainstream. So MinWin *might* be at the core of Windows 8, but they're not going to scrap the billions spent on the current kernel after one iteration. It just doesn't make any sense.
Also, Long Zheng thinks that Windows 7 will be shown off at the D6 - All Things Digital conference this year. Before you buy into this rumor, even though Long has a very good track record of being right, consider this: Microsoft's first public communication about Longhorn was at the Professional Developer's Conference, which is the most forward-looking conference they have. If they're looking to get the ecosystem more stable, as Sinofsky put in his interview... why would he show it off to reporters before he showed it off to developers? That certainly seems counterproductive. IMO, Windows Mobile 7 might be a more likely demo than Windows 7.
UPDATE: I was wrong, Long was right. Holy crap, it's getting demoed tonight!
Anyways, I hope this interview means that there will be a more steady flow of information in the near future, but somehow I doubt it. "Focusing on promising and delivering" really means that they won't promise a feature until they know they can deliver it, and when it comes to software development, that usually doesn't happen until it is done.
UPDATE: Nick White's replacement on the Official Windows Vista Blog, Chris Flores, shares some additional insight into "Communicating Windows 7".