It's a question we all face: with chips getting more processing cores instead of more gigahertz, is your next computer going to actually run your software faster?

Microsoft is one of the companies that feels the pressure to most acutely when it comes to putting those cores to work. Though it doesn't pretend to have the problem licked, Microsoft does believe Windows 7 provides a better foundation for using multicore systems than earlier versions of the operating system.

One key part of solving the PC's multicore problems draws from the world of big iron, and Windows 7 can support much bigger iron--servers with as many as 256 processor cores compared with 64 for its predecessor. Now a few years into the multicore era, even today's laptops are able to juggle as many tasks as reasonably powerful servers from just a few years ago. Intel's new Core i7 "Clarksfield" processor for mobile computers has four cores that manage a total of eight separate "threads" of work.

"One dimension is support for a much larger number of processors and getting good linear scaling on that change from 64 to 256 processors," said Jon DeVaan, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows Core Operating System Division. "There's all kinds of depth in that change."

Full story: c|net