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.