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Official Windows 7 Beta Build Leaks to BitTorrent

Windows 7 Leaked

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is rumored to be the launch pad for Microsoft's one and only public beta test of Windows 7, but it seems a few people couldn't wait until next week. Build 7000, the version planned for use in the beta test, leaked onto BitTorrent sites over the Christmas holiday.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates had been the opening keynote speaker at CES for more than a decade, but with his retirement, CEO Steve Ballmer now has the honors of kicking off the giant show, which begins next week. While Microsoft would not confirm the rumors that Ballmer would announce a Windows 7 beta during his speech, it did acknowledge the leak.

"It is part of our normal testing process for testers to receive regular builds; however, the Windows 7 public beta is still expected in early 2009," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com.

A pre-beta build, called Build 6801, was given to attendees of both the Professional Developer Conference (PDC) and Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), which took place in late October and early November. While still an early build, the OS was praised for its stability. Not surprisingly, it also leaked to BitTorrent sites.

Whatever the state of Build 7000, it is winning rave reviews for a beta product. "In fact, this build is much closer to a release candidate (RC) build than a beta from a quality standpoint. It is feature complete, it is reasonably stable, and it is highly compatible with the software and hardware I use on a regular basis," wrote Paul Thurrott on his Supersite for Windows page.

"This beta is of excellent quality. This is the kind of code that you could roll out and live with," wrote Adrian Kingsley-Hughes on his ZDNet blog. Both reviewers added a few caveats and quirks they found, but were still overwhelmingly positive in their assessments.

Both reviewers described few major changes in the release -- just everything getting further polished, spiffed up and optimized. Each noted that system overhead is even lower than before, a welcome change from the resource-consuming Windows Vista.

Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies consultancy, hasn't experimented with Build 7000 yet but said he is not surprised at the rave reviews for the leaked build.

"Since the [core] of Windows 7 is Vista and it has been banged on for two years, it is pretty solid now," he told InternetNews.com. "It's the front end that's being changed now, and that needs it because that could use the optimization."

Headed for phones?

Kay thinks Microsoft may actually be looking to take a page from Apple's book and make its OS small enough to work in a mobile device. Windows Mobile has had trouble in the marketplace, especially in the face of the iPhone's overwhelming success.

"What will have a much longer-term impact on the market is [that] the footprint is much smaller," he said. "I think the obvious move would be to move it into a phone, like Apple did. Obviously, it took a lot of tweaking because they didn't move the full OS onto the iPhone."

It would fit with Microsoft's new vision of client computing, he added. "As the concept of client computing gets amorphous and broader in definition, what you want is an OS that can play on any client. That would be the ideal case."

Still, as intriguing as they might seem, such plans remain only speculation at this point.

"They haven't said overtly they are going to do that," Kay said.

Still, it would not be unprecedented for Microsoft to bring its operating system to a new platform: The Zune uses a modified version of Windows CE and the Xbox uses Windows APIs.

Even if this is not the plan, Kay said he was just happy to see a streamlined OS after the bloat of Vista.

"Frankly, there's a lot of junk in the OS," he said. "There's a lot of low-hanging fruit in terms of what they can do to optimize it. In the past, they didn't worry about resources. They would go for performance, but now the feeling is it's too big."

He added that he believes Microsoft has a good chance of meeting its internal June 2009 deadline, as well. Publicly, Microsoft has said Windows 7 will ship in the first quarter of 2010, but its own internal target is six months earlier.

"That's pretty ambitious, but it would be good if they could because it would get them into retail for Christmas and they need it," Kay said. "So June to August would be better -- it gives the OEMs more time to plan."