I'm perplexed at all the huffing about the difficulties some people had installing the Windows 7 Beta. If you had patience -- or did the download over the weekend in the dead of night, when Microsoft's servers weren't overloaded -- it wasn't a problem. (I know, I really should get a life.) More interesting is that fact that the beta provides strong hints about Microsoft's release schedule for the operating system.I scurried to grab the beta over the weekend because Microsoft on Friday was threatening to stop validating installs after the first 2.5 million people. On Saturday, after the company's servers staggered under the download strain, Microsoft lifted that limit and said downloads would be available through Jan. 24. Me, like I noted above, I didn't have any problems replacing my Windows 7 pre-beta build 6800 with the new build 7000 beta.
My only complaint is the beta expires in August. I've seen several posts complaining about this expiration date (to be precise, it's Aug. 1, 2009). Wired writes that: "You will probably be forced to go back to using Vista SP1 on August 1 (or maybe upgrade to Win7 Beta 2."
First off, I sincerely hope that no one who's downloading the Windows 7 beta is putting it on their production machine, in place of either Vista or Windows XP. That'd be just plain dumb. It's a beta, after all. If you don't have a spare machine, you should stick it in a separate partition and create a dual-boot configuration. Granted, this is not trivial to do. (It's also not terribly difficult, especially once you've gotten over the hump of doing your first dual boot. I have a triple-boot system running Vista, Windows XP, and the Windows 7 Beta.)
Second, and more to the point of this post, even a Clouseau-like analysis (the Peter Sellers version, not Steve Martin) of that Aug. 1st beta shut-off date leads one to the realization that Microsoft is probably planning to release the final version around that time. I'd say we can expect to see Windows 7 ship around back-to-school time.
This makes logical sense for several reasons, because it positions Microsoft to seed a spectacularly successful PC upgrade cycle this Christmas holiday shopping season. Think about it -- there's clearly a (high) level of consumer demand for Windows 7, the likes of which never materialized for Vista.
Equally important to my assumption of a fall ship date is the software itself. When I reviewed the pre-beta, I marveled at how stable it seemed. I took this (and its visual similarities to Vista) to mean that Windows 7 is in fact a properly recoded (or fully bug-fixed) and tested version of Vista. (Indeed, looking at the beta, I'd bet that Windows 7 is pretty much ready to ship anytime Microsoft wants to.)
However, as I noted back in November, the reason Microsoft is going with the new Windows 7 moniker, rather than calling the latest code something like "Windows Vista 2010," is the fact that Vista is a tainted brand.
I think Microsoft has a good plan in place here. Hey, I don't care how bad the economy is, I'm telling you that people are going to want their Windows 7 PCs this Christmas.
I'll be back in a few days with my impressions of the beta and some screen shots. Meanwhile, here's the photo gallery from the pre-beta install. Also, I'd love to hear your impressions of the beta. Please leave a comment below, or shoot me an e-mail directly at [email protected].
First install of the pre-beta build of Windows 7. (Click picture to enlarge, and to see 43 Windows 7 screen shots.)
Windows 7 lets you snap your windows to the left and right, to ease screen management and to compare docs. (Click picture to enlarge, and to see 43 Windows 7 screen shots.)
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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.