Operating Systems

Microsoft Slates Windows 7 Delivery for October

Windows 7 will be available on new computers starting Oct. 22, according to Microsoft.

That date puts Microsoft ahead of the year-end retail season; however, it largely misses the annual back-to-school sales window.

Those who buy a Vista PC in the weeks preceding Oct. 22 may be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 7 once it’s available, but details of that program remain unclear.

Microsoft announced the final release date for its new operating system Wednesday, during a keynote address at Computex 2009 in Taipei, Taiwan. Microsoft also promised to deliver the Release toManufacturing (RTM) code to partners in the second half of July, meaning computer makers will get a head start on installing the OS in their products and have them ready for sale by Oct. 22.

Windows Server 2008 R2 will be broadly available at the same time,according to Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s OEM division corporatevice president.

Code writers have made enough progress with beta responses to beconfident about the new OS’s quality and its ready date, he said. In addition,Microsoft will offer an upgrade option that allows computer makers to sell Vista-loaded computers before the release of Windows 7 and then upgrade those computers to the new OS when it’s ready.

“The October release was not unexpected,” Michael Silver, research vicepresident and distinguished analyst for Gartner, toldTechNewsWorld. “With so many organizationsplanning to skip Vista, there will still be a huge amount to test, andeven organizations that deployed Vista will need to test applicationsand wait for support. Most organizations will not have a choice but todeploy Windows 7, because they cannot stay on Windows XP forever.Microsoft support will end in early 2014, and independent softwarevendor support will end before that.”

Better Beta

For now, it appears that Microsoft sidestepped many of thedevelopment problems that plagued the release of Windows Vista. The widespread availability of a free Windows 7 beta version likely helped Microsoft expedite the process.

Engineers received great feedback, Guggenheimer said in announcing the release date.

“This updated guidance is based on what we’ve heard from pre-beta tonow from the partner ecosystem and customers and through our owninternal testing,” Microsoft spokesperson Brittany Robbins told TechNewsWorld.

Two New Features

Users will not find any new features slipped into the finalrelease of Windows 7.

“We have been feature-complete since beta. At RC (release candidate),we turned on a couple of ‘surprise’ features as well,” Robbins said.

One of those add-ons was a Windows XP mode, which was madeavailable to enterprise users. It will facilitate the migration toWindows 7 for organizations that skipped the upgrade to Windows Vistaout of concerns over compatibility with critical applications.

Another item added since the beta version of Windows 7 isWindows Media Streaming. This will enable Windows 7 users to accesstheir media collections on other PCs and devices in the home, as well ason the road.

Upgrade Details Unclear

“Consumers can buy that new PC — whether for a student heading off tocollege or just because they need a new one — and know they’ll getWindows 7 as part of the deal,” said MIcrosoft’s Guggenheimer during his keynoteaddress.

However, for some consumers, the devil may still lurk in the details. New computer purchases made too far in advance of the Oct. 22release date may not qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 7. Theactual start date for the program has not yet been announced.

“Participation in the Windows 7 upgrade option is decided by theretailers and PC manufacturers,” said Microsoft’s Robbins. “There are costs associated withimplementing the offers, so they may opt out of the program for certainmodels, particular timeframes or in specific markets. We encouragecustomers to work with their retailers and PC manufacturers to betterunderstand availability.”

Excitement or Yawns?

Anticipation for the release of Windows 7 may grow as the calendargets closer to October, provided no last-minute delays stall the release.However, planning for the inevitable migration, especially in largeenterprise settings, may continue to produce yawns from IT staff andworkers.

“I’ve seen a decent amount of excitement, especially since Vistainterest has been so disappointing. Press and bloggers seem to likeWindows 7,” observed Gartner’s Silver.

However, enterprises will probably need at least 12 to 18 months before they will startdeploying it, he noted. That, by itself, puts a damper ongrowing excitement.

“But my clients have shown a decent amount of interest,” said Silver. “The realityfor enterprises is that we are in a recession, and many are notspending much on this type of activity anyway — but hopefully, theeconomy will be better by the time organizations will need to spendresources on this.”

Small Version Coming

Perhaps the main thrust for consumer interest in upgrading to Windows7 will come from buying a smaller, more economical netbook computer rather thana new desktop or larger notebook PC.

The economy appears to be facilitating growth in the netbook space,Microsoft’s Guggenheimer pointed out. That’s pushing buyers towardless-costly and more mobile hardware.

Several OEMs have announced plans to issue new, small notebook PCs andnetbooks designed for the Windows 7 operating system, he noted.

Server Side

Windows Server 2008 R2 is intended to address businesses’ needs in the fields of virtualization, Web and management, saidGuggenheimer.

For smaller businesses, the recently released Windows Server 2008 Foundation willbe offered preinstalled on hardware products from Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, IBM and NEC later thisyear, he said.

“We expect this new server platform to be popular in markets acrossthe globe, with its modest cost making it possible for small companiesto grow, innovate and stay competitive, which in turn can ignitegrowth for their local economies,” commented Guggenheimer.

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