After being leaked to software pirate sites two weeks before its official debut, software developers and hard-core users who wanted an official copy of Windows 7 beta on Friday were disappointed when they discovered they'd have to wait another day.
The Windows 7 beta download site was overloaded by would-be beta users hours before the launch. Microsoft delayed the launch to add additional infrastructure support to the Microsoft.com properties before it posted the public beta.
The Windows 7 beta download site has been up and running smoothly since Saturday morning. Microsoft apologized for the inconvenience and sought to make up for the delays by making the software more broadly available.
"We have clearly heard that many of you want to check out the Windows 7 beta and, as a result, we have decided to remove the initial 2.5 million limit on the public beta for the next two weeks (thru January 24th)," Brandon LeBlanc wrote on the Windows blog. "During that time you will have access to the beta even if the download number exceeds the 2.5 million unit limit."
Inside Windows 7
According to Microsoft, Windows 7 was built around consumer feedback. Some of the new features include a taskbar at the bottom of the screen that lets users switch between open applications. In Windows 7, users can set the order in which the icons appear and they'll stay put. A Jump List feature aims to make it easy to find recent files. Right-clicking on a Word icon, for example, will show the most recent Word documents.
Windows 7 also aims to simplify how consumers work with the windows on the desktop. The operating system lets users drag open windows to screen borders instead of having to click on tiny objects in the corner of a window. Users can see desktop gadgets by dragging the mouse to the lower right corner of the desktop.
Microsoft is also boasting better device management with Windows 7. Windows 7 offers a single Device and Printers screen so users can connect, manage and use the printers, phones and other devices they have. A new technology in Windows 7 called Device Stage lets users interact with any compatible device connected to their computer.
The Windows Playbook
At this point it's almost hard to call Windows 7 a beta program, according to Michael Gartenberg, vice president of mobile strategy for Jupitermedia. He is defining it as a preview version and said Microsoft is trying to get Windows 7 into as many people's hands as possible so they can use it, hopefully like it, and help generate some excitement for Vista's successor.
"This is a way for Microsoft to have its cake and eat it, too," Gartenberg said. "Microsoft clearly has learned some lessons, and in some cases they are taking plays out of their own playbook."
Gartenberg is reminded of when Microsoft launched Windows 95. The company released it to what was at the time considered to be a wide beta audience of 500,000. Now Microsoft is upping that figure to "unlimited." It seems whoever wants a copy of Windows 7 and has an Internet connection can download the beta.
"It is a very smart move on Microsoft's part and it will be interesting to see if they actually turn off the beta on Jan. 24 as they said, or if they are going to extend it beyond that to ensure that beta is available to as many people as possible," Gartenberg said.