Microsoft Looks Ready For Fall Windows 7 RTM

opened the Windows 7 Release Candidate to the public

If no major glitches are discovered by the millions of testers currently kicking the tires, Microsoft looks set to get Windows 7 out by late summer or early fall, which would give PC makers plenty of time to load it onto new PCs for the holiday season. An Acer executive last week said the company will start selling a touch-screen PC with Windows 7 on Oct. 23.

In many ways, Windows 7 and Windows Vista have been a study in contrasts. Vista had two betas and two release candidates, with many changes in between leading to a lengthy testing phase. But Windows 7's beta went smoothly, and there's no reason to expect that the release candidate will be any different. Actually, any major delay would be one of the most noteworthy developments around Windows 7 to date.

The only problem Microsoft has encountered thus far has been overwhelmed servers in the wake of releasing Windows 7 RC to testers. In the Windows 7 RC release notes, Microsoft says there's no need for testers to rush to download the RC because it will be available through July. Microsoft isn't limiting the number of product keys, as it did for a few days after launching the Windows 7 Beta in January.

The Windows 7 RC won't expire until June 1, 2010, but beginning March 1, 2010, testers' PCs will start shutting down every two hours as a gentle reminder to upgrade to a paid version. Testers running the Windows 7 Beta will start seeing the shutdowns on July 1 of this year.

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If they still haven't upgraded by Aug. 1, the Windows 7 Beta license will expire, and testers will be subjected to the standard Windows Genuine Advantage-style nags that include turning the OS wallpaper to black and displaying a "This copy of Windows is not genuine" message.

Microsoft is asking Windows 7 Beta testers to roll back their PCs to Windows Vista before installing the RC so that the data it gathers is an accurate reflection of how millions of Vista users will be upgrading to Windows 7.

Microsoft isn't providing a direct XP-to-Windows 7 upgrade path, and for the past year has been urging XP customers to upgrade to Vista before Windows 7 to minimize compatibility issues.

The Windows 7 RC download is available as an ISO image that users must burn onto a DVD. It's available in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish, and each language comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.