The first beta version of Windows 7 has made a surprise public appearance. The operating system (OS) appears to be available on the Internet via file-sharing utilities like BitTorrent — apparently without the approval of Microsoft.
Microsoft released pre-beta code of the OS to developers at its recent Professional Developers Conference held at the end of October. A final version of Windows 7 is expected to roll out at the end of 2009.
The first beta release is officially scheduled to become available in early 2009, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. However, the latest code for the new OS appears to be available for download now through file-sharing utilities. Torrent tracking sites like PirateBay.org already index multiple listings for the operating system.
“In a situation like this, it is not that likely that Microsoft would intentionally leak the software, since as the company moves through the beta program, the betas become increasingly public in nature,” Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.
“So if Microsoft wanted a broad collection of users to have access to the code, the company could easily make it freely downloadable and would not need to leak it. But the bottom line is, Microsoft wants feedback during the beta process, and if the code leaked, it’s probably not a PR disaster for Microsoft,” he continued.
The unofficial release of the beta software can only be a positive for Microsoft, said Michael Cherry, lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft.
“One reason a company might give the code to a selected number of people prior to release is to get some positive reaction to build excitement for the eventual release,” he told TechNewsWorld. If the release was not on purpose it can be a benefit, if in fact it does create positive buzz, he said.
However, the situation could turn sour for Microsoft later on as the beta process progresses, Cherry added.
“It depends on how comfortable they are about delivering the features in the build. The danger is always that the testers will fall in love with a feature that for technical or other reasons ends up getting cut. This can lead to disappointment, and bad feelings for the product,” he said.
The pre-beta code for Windows 7 is “pretty stable,” according to Gillen.
However, Cherry cautions testers to be careful when downloading leaked beta software.
“Testers anxious to get their hands on the release should be cautious — there are likely lots of packages of code which contain significant malware, such as rootkits, masquerading as ‘Windows 7 Beta’ code,” he noted.
Given that the release of beta code has become old hat for most tech-savvy users, they just need to keep in mind that the code is not a fully realized vision of the OS as of yet, said Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst.
“In these days, people are used to beta software, so the only downside is that it’s fairly early in the cycle, and a lot of features are not yet visible in the release. So someone could jump to a conclusion that there’s not enough of interest in the new release,” he told TechNewsWorld.