May 1, 2009

Windows 7 Version To Be Available May 5

Microsoft Corp. said Thursday that it would publicly release a near-final version of its next-generation Windows 7 operating system on May 5.

The Windows 7 "release candidate" will be available for download at www.microsoft.com/downloads, and includes a few new features, such as a way to run Windows XP applications.

It had been made available to a large number of technology-savvy testers on Thursday. 

The release candidate is usually the version Microsoft's corporate clients use to assess how the new system will work.  Software developers, hardware manufacturers and other partners also base their next-generation products on this version because they trust that its stability and that it is close to completion.

Microsoft published the release candidate for its Vista operating system roughly five months prior to market availability of its final version.  If Windows 7 follows the same trajectory, it could be available as early as October.  However, Microsoft officially expects to begin selling Windows 7 by January 2010.

Nevertheless, the company said this week that it is possible it could launch Windows 7 in time for this year's holiday shopping season.

Microsoft is hoping Windows 7 will win over businesses that postponed upgrading to Vista, which got off to a rocky start because it did not work well with other devices and programs.

The company fell under harsh consumer criticism when many computers touted as "Vista capable" were actually too weak to run Vista's new interface and other features. As a result, customers that wanted to upgrade Windows XP machines found their graphics cards and other components were not up to the task.

But Windows 7 is expected to have a easier debut because it shares much of Vista's underlying technology, meaning software and hardware makers have had more than two years to ensure their products meet the technical requirements to support the new software.

Microsoft has promoted the concept that the high-end version of Windows 7 will run on many more machines than Vista, including small, low-powered laptops known as netbooks.  The company currently sells Windows XP, a less profitable version of its operating system, to companies like Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. to install on netbooks.

The company revealed Thursday that the fundamental requirements for running the high-end version of Windows 7 do not differ much from those required to run the bulkier versions of Vista.

But critics argue that Vista's requirements for memory and other components should have been set even higher. For its part, Microsoft says Windows 7 is better at managing memory and would not overwhelm less-powerful machines.

The Windows 7 release candidate includes a few new features that did not exist in the January beta version.  One feature, known as "Windows XP Mode", available as a separate download, allows users to run many XP-era programs from a Windows 7 computer.

The new software also allows use their Windows 7 machines to use the Internet to access music and other media files stored on their home PCs.


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