Yesterday Microsoft lifted the curtains on its cloud computing platform, Windows Azure, at the PDC 2008 in Los Angeles. Today, it's all about Windows 7, with the company unveiling the upcoming operating system as it announced ambitious plans to have it on store shelves in little more than a year.

Windows 7 will replace the much-criticized Vista operating system, addressing some of the perceived weaknesses of its two-year-old predecessor that contributed to a largely negative reception. For example, the operating system is designed to boot and perform much faster, all while going easier on the hardware requirements - in fact, the company showed off the new OS running on a 1GHz netbook with 1GB of memory.

As for the user interface, it's very similar to Windows Vista, but there are enough changes to give it a very different feel: multi-touch and gestures will play an important role, it will be a lot less intrusive with fewer pop-ups and notifications, users can control what appears in their Task Bar and System Tray, among other usability improvements. Windows 7 will also include a significant amount of features that will tie in with Microsoft's Web services in Windows Live Essentials suite of applications.

ZDNet and Engadget have posted a more detailed look at the new features in Windows 7, which includes some that will networking a smoother experience, improved search, tighter device integration, and "Jump Lists." All in all, Microsoft's next OS appears to be shaping up nicely, losing some of the irksome features in Vista while promising improved usability and performance all across the board. Hopefully, it will live up to expectations. (Image source: Neowin)