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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Microsoft Offers Free-for-All with Unlimited Windows 7 Downloads

The pre-release version of Windows 7 was intially available to the first 2.5 million people who download from January 8, 2009. Users rush to download copies, placing so much strain on Microsoft's servers that they crashed. Microsoft decided the wild demand is a good thing and it has moved in the opposite direction, dropping the download limit entirely. Users can now download and test as many copies of the Windows 7 beta as they want.

Download the Windows 7 Beta
Minimum recommended specs call for:(these specs could change.)
1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor
1 GB of system memory
16 GB of available disk space
Support for DirectX 9 graphics with 128 MB memory (to enable the Aero theme)
DVD-R/W Drive
Internet access (to download the Beta and get updates)

#Some product features of Windows 7, such as the ability to watch and record live TV or navigation through the use of "touch," may require advanced or additional hardware.
#You'll need a system recovery disk (and know how to use it).
#You're [almost] flying solo: you'll need to troubleshoot problems yourself and call on other Beta testers for their know-how.
#It's a two-way thing—Beta testing is about feedback so our developers can fix bugs and hear what appeals to the people who use our products daily. Please tell us what you think.
#Watch the calendar. The Beta expires on August 1, 2009. To continue using your PC, please be prepared to reinstall a prior version of Windows or a subsequent release of Windows 7 before the expiration date

The beta brings many improvements over Vista's user interface, including jump lists, a revamped task bar, and easier networking. The Preview Bar, which previews Internet Explorer 8 tabs, jump lists available in most programs, dockable windows, and even the much maligned revamped taskbar were all showcased. It feature the new touch screen technology, an important addition to Windows 7. While Windows 7 is architecturally remarkably similar to Vista, Microsoft's focus has been on providing users with in essence a cleaner, more intuitive, and prettier interface. Such an approach has been long championed by Apple

Memory usage and hardware support were two of Windows Vista's biggest shortcomings, particularly during the OS's early days. Apple's OS market share, fueled by strong sales continued to grow, almost reaching 10 percent, according to a recent survey by Net Applications. Apple continues to eke its way to more marketshare in the U.S., though still a distant third behind Dell/HP.

A source at Microsoft said the final Windows 7 release will likely be substantially leaner focusing on simplicity, reliability and speed. Steve Ballmer says that Windows 7 "should boot more quickly, have longer battery life, and fewer alerts."

Windows 7 sequel to Vista?
Well, if you load it up your first impression will be, "Hmm. Looks like Vista." (Or if you are a Vista hater, your first impression will be, "Urrggghhh! It looks like Vista!") According to Microsoft corporate vice president Mike Nash, Microsoft developers have built from what they've learned from Vista. Mostly in making Windows 7 better, more usable, and more stable performer, one less plagued with problems. effort has been spent: not necessarily on major technical adjustments ( application and driver developers can rest easy their software, if it worked on Vista, will work on Windows 7)

User perspective:
From the user perspective, Windows 7 comes with interesting new features such as Aero Peek, which replaces Show Desktop and allows you to preview what is happening behind your windows, as well as Aero Snaps, which allows you to easily snap windows to the screen's edges and adjust them quickly. There is a new Action Center that replaces the Security Center and goes beyond security with monitoring alerts and maintenance aspects of the OS. Windows 7 also yields a simplified Backup/Restore process, some networking enhancements for the home users called HomeGroup, Internet Explorer 8, and a new libraries feature for virtualized content. There are also parental control improvements (for home users, not the enterprise), along with changes to the Sidebar, which is now Windows Gadgets.

Additionally, applications such as e-mail, the calendar, the photo gallery, and the moviemaker have been removed from the OS and are now available as an optional download through Windows Live Essentials. There are more, but you can see that Windows 7 is a true upgrade to Vista, not just a sequel.

Business perspective:
Here are some of the features that we need to consider from the business perspective for rolling out Windows 7 in our enterprise:

* DirectAccess -- This feature replaces VPN networking, an often complex and user-unfriendly approach to connecting to your corporate network. Using Exchange with HTTPS as a basis for success, there is a simpler way to securely connect into the network from a Windows 7 client -- although we have to wait for Server 2008 R2 for this to work.
* BitLocker -- Providing protection for any lost or stolen system, BitLocker was touted as one of the most important reasons to use Vista in businesses, especially on laptops, because it encrypts your entire system drive. Microsoft added enhancement to BitLocker in Vista SP1 and Server 2008, and with Windows 7, we're looking at a simpler implementation method: Windows 7 automatically creates the necessary boot partition needed to enable BitLocker, which is great. Previously it was somewhat of a manual intervention nightmare.
There is also a new Data Recovery Agent feature that allows for a single recovery key for multiple systems. Another great feature is called Bitlocker to Go, which allows you to lock down removable storage -- no more worrying if your USB key containing sensitive data is stolen.
* PowerShell 2.0 -- PowerShell is loved by admins (well, some of us) in the Windows world. This command-line and scripting environment is being released in Windows 7 as PowerShell 2.0, with the new Integrated Scripting Environment. It will allow IT admins to remotely administer systems through PowerShell cmdlets.

Microsoft recommends they install Windows Vista! In a Microsoft document titled "The Business Value of Windows Vista," which shows "five reasons to deploy now," there is a discussion on page 16 about whether to move from XP directly to Windows 7

Arguably, waiting to move from XP directly to Windows 7 shouldn't be any more difficult, from a technical perspective, than going from XP to Vista to Windows 7. Microsoft's argument is, why wait for the security and productivity enhancements in Windows 7 when you can have many of them now through Vista? And why throw 10 years of changes on users all in one shot when you can break it up a bit?

The true deployment cycle isn't expected for Windows 7 until mid-2011 -- although Microsoft is hoping for a late-2009 or early-2010 release.

Going from XP to Windows 7? Or maybe Ubuntu is in your future? VIA

Related Article: Microsoft reveals 36 changes to Windows 7

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