Rafael Rivera and I have had some back and forths recently about curious new features in Windows 7. We're working on a book (Windows 7 Secrets) and of course we're just very involved in the whole Windows community thing, so this is also interesting to us regardless. But here's another side-effect of Microsoft's Cone of Silence (tm) around Windows 7: Not only are there features in there that were never tested publicly, there are features that are just hidden in there, undocumented and unknown to most. (And when you think about it, that's the ultimate way to ignore feedback.) When we've asked Microsoft to elaborate on these features, we've gotten a big "no comment." Rafael has decided that he's going to write up three of them on his blog. The first is about Windows Vault.

At first glance, the Windows Vault appears to be a snazzy new feature to allow users to store a bunch of passwords to commonly used websites and doodads and have them Just Work(tm) when using those various services.

After fumbling around some more, I discovered Online IDs (refer to post #2, soon) which populated my credential list with all sorts of meaningless information. Things like WindowsLive:(token):name=rafæl@withinwindows.com; serviceuri=windows_default_cred_slc and my Windows Live ID account.

In discussion with Paul Thurrott, we came to the conclusion this fancy new Windows Vault stuff was merely the never-used Stored Names and Passwords feature from Windows Vista, painted over with some heavy lipstick and given a weird brand name.

Questions in my head: Why would one bring such a internal component driven feature closer to surface? How would a normal user use this feature? Were drugs involved?

LOL. Sadly, no. This is just what happens when you develop UI in a vacuum. Hey, ask Apple: They do the same thing and then are forced to change the product after the fact when actual users finally discover problems. There are so many examples of this, it's almost pointless to even pursue it, but I'll just point to the odd toolbar transparency effect that's included in Mac OS X Leopard. After they shipped it, users complained, and now you can disable it thanks to an update. I guess that's one way of doing things. Apple probably describes it, ironically, as feedback-driven.