RealTime IT News

After the Wait, Windows 7 Is Almost Here

Windows 7 Release Candidate
Users, start your downloads: The race is on.

While racing of all sorts is a spring ritual, this time it isn't the (just passed) Kentucky Derby or the Indianapolis 500 (still almost three weeks away).

Instead, Tuesday is opening day for the last public test of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 7 -- and if the beta test last winter was any indication -- it's going to be a doozy.

"It's the next important milestone on the path toward releasing the product," Michael Cherry, lead analyst for operating systems at Directions on Microsoft, told InternetNews.com. "I've been working with it for couple of days and I'm pleasantly impressed."

Users can likely expect long waits to get to download the near-final release of Windows 7, just as they did in January when the beta test began. Beginning Tuesday, the download will be available from the Windows 7 site, according to Microsoft.

Called a "Release Candidate" in Microsoft slang, or RC for short, the RC is the last testing phase for Windows 7 before it goes on sale. It is a coming out party of sorts, sporting all the changes that came out of the beta process. It's an opportunity for consumers and IT shops to kick the tires one last time before Windows 7 hits store shelves -- most likely in the late summer or early fall.

When the beta of Windows 7 kicked off in January, in fact, demand was so high that the company had to delay the public beta nearly a day due to massive interest that caused download servers to crash.

Microsoft brought more servers online, and quickly lifted the limits it had placed on how many users could download and test it. Up until that point, the beta was capped at 2.5 million users. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to disclose actual numbers.

On Thursday, Microsoft first made the RC available to technical users -- subscribers to its TechNet and MSDN services. Once again, servers were initially briefly unavailable, but this time the outage lasted only two or three hours long and turned out to be related to a database re-indexing problem.

However, it's difficult to estimate how Microsoft can plan any better for the RC than it did for the beta. "I don't know how you plan for something this big," Cherry said.

The RC will be available from May 5 through July, according to statements posted on Microsoft's Windows 7 page.

So far, at least, the RC testing has been progressing uneventfully. A random survey of several Windows 7 community forums since Thursday found few users registering serious complaints.

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