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Steve Ballmer's Windows 7 dance party

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Enter Caddy Shack

Brad Brooks, vice president of the Windows marketing group, then took the stage to awe the crowd with a few of the most "exciting" new features you’ll find in Windows 7. He started by showing the interface for importing photos from a digital camera, pointing out that it displays an image of the actual model of camera you’ve connected to the system. A nice touch. But surely, this is far from the top selling point for a new OS.

Brooks then showed how he could quickly create a movie from images on his system using Windows Live Movie Maker, an app that really isn’t really part of the OS. Exciting feature Number 2 is actually something you can download online.

Things got a bit more interesting when Brooks demonstrated Windows 7's multitouch capabilities. Tapping the monitor, Brooks hopped around the Windows 7 interface. In particular, he demonstrated how you can use this feature in Windows Media Center.

He started and stopped movies, flipped through the guide listings, and started a movie (Caddy Shack) streaming from Netflix. Of course, you’ll need a touch sensitive television or monitor to use these touch features - and you might wanna to keep the Windex handy.

At this point, there were actually a couple new announcements. CBS, a major network in the US known for such highbrow programming as the CSI franchise and Two and a Half Men, will integrate its content with Windows Media Center. Users will be able to access all the CBS primetime shows on demand from within Media Center. Amazon also announced that it's developing a Kindle reader app for Windows 7. This is still in beta, and it's due for public release next month.

Brooks then covered such areas as setting up a home network and using a networked printer on a home network. And he showed how he could connect remotely to his home PC and stream an episode of Family Guy. Clearly, Microsoft likes Family Guy.

Briefly, Brooks noted that a work laptop can now be a member of the Domain at work and also be a member of the home group when you take it home in the evening. This was the only mention of something remotely IT- or business-related.

Finally, Brooks showed how a single Dell PC could drive more than a dozen televisions on the network, streaming an assortment of videos to a variety of HDTVs. More applause. Of course, some of the credit here should go to that Dell PC.

Don’t put your wallet away just yet

The show wrapped up with a tour of some of the new Windows 7 powered PCs and devices being launched. There were thin laptops, high-end gaming systems, a notebook that docks and charges without using any cords, a tiny Media Center system, touch-capable monitors, and the like. At this point, Windows 7 took a back seat as Mike Anguilo, general manager of Windows planning, and Steve Ballmer spent more time showcasing partner products.

Then a new message became clear: If you want the full Windows 7 experience, be prepared to drop more cash on new hardware and gadgets. Just what people want in a time of economic instability.

Still, Ballmer and team seemed to please the crowd as they showed how a laptop could boot in just 15 seconds and wake from sleep nearly instantaneously. But these were clean systems. Let’s see how responsive Windows 7 is after it’s been running for months loaded with apps. One thing's for sure: it'll out-clock Windows Vista. ®

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