Windows 7 screen shot
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Tech pros who subscribe to Microsoft's TechNet and MSDN programs got access to the new OS Thursday, as did independent hardware vendors and independent software vendors.
Microsoft is releasing Windows 7 gradually to its industry partners and high-volume business customers weeks ahead of the product's Oct. 22 public debut to ensure that it's fully supported and bug-free by the time it hits store shelves or shows up on new PCs.
That's not surprising. Vista's January, 2007 launch was plagued by a range of hardware and software incompatibilities—including a lack of device drivers for some widely used Intel chipsets. The problems ultimately doomed Vista in the corporate market.
"Now is the time to work on your applications to make sure they are Windows 7 compatible," said Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft's in-house Windows blogger, in a post Thursday.
Gold or Certified members of Microsoft's Partner Program get access to Windows 7 on August 16, while Action Pack subscribers get the OS on August 23. Sept. 1 marks the day when Volume Licensing customers who do not have Software Assurance subscriptions can download the Release To Manufacturing, or final, version of Windows 7.
The full version of Windows 7 Home Premium is priced at $199, with an upgrade from Vista or XP costing $119. The full version of Windows 7 Professional is $299, with upgrades going for $199. Windows 7 Ultimate is priced at $319, with the upgrade version at $219.
Upgrading from XP to Windows 7? Here's a step-by-step guide.