It’s becoming clear that Microsoft is taking the first steps towards Windows being fully ready for parallel computing. But the fundamentals of the system mean there won’t be any major changes until whatever follows Windows 7.
Parallel computing is a fairly simple concept, albeit one that can be mindblowingly complex in operation. Instead of a computer operating in traditional fashion, by performing a task one step at a time in logical order, parallel computing involves breaking down the task into multiple parts and carrying out two or more instantaneously.
From a software perspective, this greatly increases the effects of any bugs or loopholes because of the risk one section of a task will be reliant on data that another section hasn’t yet produced. Hardware wise, parallel computing either needs a series of computers working together, or a single machine which either runs multiple processors or a single processor split into multiple cores. These types of machine are still fairly high-end but it’s unlikely to be that many years before they are common enough that Windows really should make the best of them.
The big issue with Windows is that Win32, which is pretty much the brain of the system, really isn’t suited for parallel computing. There’s a long-term plan to replace Win32 (to the point that the resulting operating system would arguably no longer be a direct Windows descendant), but that won’t be happening with Windows 7.
However, ZDnet is now reporting that Vista’s successor will include several under-the-bonnet tweaks to make it do a better job of dealing with multiple processors (or cores). One example is the way Windows prioritises tasks, which was originally a rigidly fixed process. Vista included some tweaks so that it would take better account of the processor (or processors) it was working on when setting these priorities and Windows 7 will enhance this flexibility.