The sixth version of the D: All Things Digital conference will begin Tuesday night with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer onstage. The two legends of Microsoft will offer the first public peek at Windows 7, although Ballmer told me they would only show a little bit of the user interface.
It will be a very early "positioning" peek given that Windows 7 isn't due until the beginning of 2010. As CNET News.com's Ina Fried reported from her interview with Window chief Steven Sinofsky, Windows 7 is not a new kernel. Ballmer said that doing too much with the Windows kernel in Vista has been a source of incompatibilities and displeasure among users, and Microsoft wants to avoid that kind of problem.
Sinofsky described the Windows 7 kernel evolution as follows in the interview:
We're very clear that drivers and software that work on Windows Vista are going to work really well on Windows 7; in fact, they'll work the same. We're going to not introduce additional compatibilities, particularly in the driver model. Windows Vista was about improving those things. We are going to build on the success and the strength of the Windows Server 2008 kernel, and that has all of this work that you've been talking about. The key there is that the kernel in Windows Server '08 is an evolution of the kernel in Windows Vista, and then Windows 7 will be a further evolution of that kernel as well.
The speakers at D6 also include Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, Barry Diller, Howard Stringer, Jeff Bewkes, and Jerry Yang, among others. However, don't expect a group hug between Ballmer and Yang, who may be in the audience tonight for the Gates-Ballmer show.