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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guest Post: Microsoft

I just moved across to Windows 7, an early mover in a BT wide program with anticipated benefits that include improved power management. In addition to Microsoft reducing their own direct footprint, the power management of Microsoft products have the potential to make an impact on reducing some of the 530M tons of CO2 emissions that SMART 2020 identified for the whole ICT sector. I asked Francois Ajenstat for some insights into the energy consumption implications of this new release"

Francois Ajenstat is the Director of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft Corp. He is responsible for Microsoft’s communication and outreach for key sustainability initiatives across Technology and Innovation; Global Partnerships and Corporate Environmental Practices.

Microsoft views software as a key foundational component of helping better understand our world and tackle environmental challenges. We believe it can enable the IT industry to significantly increase computing capacity around the globe, while simultaneously reducing the amount of energy required by our industry. With the recent launch of Windows 7, we have committed to reduce the energy consumption of our operating system and help our customers around the world save energy and save costs.

Microsoft has been investing in power management for many years in order to help our customers reduce energy costs but also extend the battery life in notebooks. When I look back at Windows Vista, in addition to the many power management features that we included in that product, the most important change that we made was power management “on by default”. That effectively meant that any Windows Vista user would have their PCs go to sleep after a certain period of inactivity. Considering that there are over 1 billion PCs around the world and the vast majority of users leave their PCs on 24/7, the savings in energy alone can be staggering. The NRDC found that this could shave $500 million off the US energy bill and eliminate 3 million tons of global warming pollution.

With Windows 7, efficiency was a guiding principle during our design and engineering efforts. We focused on core innovation to improve energy efficiency both when the PC is in use and when it is off. We also worked closely with our platform and software partners to help improve the efficiency of Windows computers, attached devices and installed software.

Windows 7 takes advantage of down time to save energy to scale the hardware down to the lowest available power consumption level. One of my favorite new features to help reduce idle power consumption is Adaptive Brightness. The power consumed by the display in a mobile PC is as much as 40 percent of the total power used by the system. Similar to a mobile phone, Windows 7 allows the display to dim after a short period of inactivity, reducing the amount of power used when laptops are idle for just a few minutes. Adaptive Brightness helps improve the user experience by sensing user activity so that it refrains from reducing the display brightness if there is activity immediately after dimming. This automatic behavior helps balance power savings with the PC user experience.

Another area that we focused on was to help improve energy efficiency when the PC is in use. For example, in Windows 7, when a user disconnects the network cable, Windows automatically places the network adapter into a low-power state. If the network adapter and its driver support the low-power state, additional power savings can be attained. We’ve also made optimizations to DVD Playback which reduces the amount of computing resources required for DVD playback and reduces the amount of time when the optical drive needs to be spinning.

Finally, I get a lot of questions on whether you need to upgrade to new hardware to run Windows 7 and what the impact is on eWaste. If your PC is less than a few years old, you can simply upgrade to Windows 7 and do not need to purchase a new PC. According to Softchoice, 88 percent of corporate PCs it has under management meet the minimum system requirements of Windows 7. Of those not equipped to run Windows 7, the majority would simply need more RAM and hard drive upgrade. Only one percent of their PCs would require replacement.

Overall, we have consciously thought about the design of Windows 7 and its impact on the environment. We were committed to making these changes and I’m personally very excited about Windows 7. I hope that you will get a chance to upgrade and take advantage of the new power management capabilities in this new OS.

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