Thereâ€™s been a lot of speculation over the last year or so about when Windows 7 will ship and those who are expecting a 2009 release could well get what they are asking for as the Windows 7 beta has now been released.
Starting today, Microsoft Connect beta testers and TechNet subscribers have access to the beta build (build 7000) and on Friday it will become available to a broader audience via the Windows 7 website although this is still a limited beta â€“ Microsoft’s Windows Blog reports that the beta will be restricted to the first 2.5 million downloaders and will expire on 1 August 2009. For most testers, Ultimate Edition is the only version of the client OS thatâ€™s available although it does come in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
For those who are tracking the server release, a beta of Windows Server 2008 R2 will also be available from Friday at the Windows Server 2008 R2 website and Iâ€™ve written previously about some of the new features to expect in Windows Server 2008 R2.
This is a beta â€“ there will be things that are not quite right â€“ and it might break things so itâ€™s definitely not recommended for use on a production system. Having said that, Iâ€™ve been running Windows 7 for a couple of months now and it seems pretty solid to me â€“ it should be, as itâ€™s based on Windows Vista. If you do run into problems, there is limited support available via the Technet Forums (where Iâ€™m one of the moderators for Windows 7).
For me, this is great news â€“ many of the NDA restrictions that were imposed on me whilst I was using the M3 build have now been lifted and I can start to write about the new features â€“ indeed Iâ€™m just putting the finishing touches on a post about my experiences of running 7 on a netbook.
As for that 2009 release, at the time of writing this post I have no information on product packaging, pricing, or ship dates (Microsoft is sticking to the line that it will ship when it reaches the required quality, rather than on a pre-planned date) but, with an API-complete milestone build released to developers in Autumn 2008 and a feature-complete beta released in January 2009, I see no reason why the final product would not be ready for Christmas. The August expiry of the beta also provides some hints although there is likely to be at least one release candidate post-beta and pre-RTM. It may be that we see OEMs and volume license customers get a copy in late 2009 but full retail release will follow a few weeks later (as with Vista). Also, donâ€™t be fooled by the fact that Windows Server 2008 R2 is being jointly developed with the Windows client operating system â€“ Iâ€™d expect the server product to ship in early 2010. All of that is pure speculation thoughâ€¦ for now, itâ€™s time for organisations to start installing the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 betas in labs, to familiarise themselves with new features, to test applications and to provide feedback to Microsoft.