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Microsoft on Wednesday reached the end of the road in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 development, releasing both to manufacturing and setting the stage for their commercial release in October.
OEMs can now begin testing new Windows 7 PCs in preparation for its Oct. 22 official worldwide launch. Microsoft Gold and Certified partners will be able to download the Windows 7 RTM on Aug. 16, and ISVs will be able to get it from Microsoft Connect and the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) on Aug. 6.
MSDN, TechNet, and volume licensing customers will be able to download Windows Server 2008 R2 in the second half of August, and general availability will be "on or before" Oct. 22, according to Microsoft.
Windows 7 is the first Windows release for which Microsoft hasn't doubled system requirements for RAM and processing power, and the result is a speedier, more versatile operating system that runs well even on smaller devices such as netbooks, said Iain McDonald, general manager of the Windows Server Group.
The improved performance of Windows 7 becomes immediately apparent to users when they start up their PC, with faster boot times and return from sleep mode, McDonald said. That's due in part to Microsoft paying more attention to the services that load at startup.
"In the past, we didn't do a good enough job of being the 'traffic cop' and what would happen is that everything would start up at the same time," McDonald said in an interview. "Search indexing was pretty heavy and often caused delays, and there were extraneous services that didn't need to be loading as soon as users turned on the system."
From the beginning of Windows 7 development, Microsoft has focused on getting software and hardware partners involved in the process. "The resulting stability surprised many people," said McDonald. "We made sure API calls to get into the system were frozen very early, and that allowed vendors to get their products ready to go."
Microsoft's predictable development schedule for Windows 7 has been the key to getting partners engaged, said Mike Nash, vice president of Windows Product Management. "With Windows 7, the number one thing has been the plan. We decided not to say anything until we were pretty much done with the plan," Nash said in a recent interview.
In contrast, Microsoft's approach to Vista development was defined by multiple stops and starts that generated a cloud of confusion around the release. "It was very hard for partners to know how or why to engage with Windows Vista because we kept adding and changing features very late in the process," Nash said.
Vista's problems caused many companies to skip it and remain on XP, and that has led to a significant amount of pent-up demand for Windows 7 upgrades. But while Windows 7 looks set to cleanse bad Vista memories, Microsoft is launching it into one of the worst economies in decades, and some customers may wait until next year to migrate to the new release.