While there are people out there who couldn’t give two hoots about what Microsoft is doing, preferring instead different operating systems and other non-Microsoft software, there’s no denying that Windows 7 has so far been Microsoft’s most successful unreleased operating system yet.
The world is yet to see just how much this early success translates into rapidly growing Windows 7 market share, at the expense of Vista and XP, but so far it’s looking good, and we’re still not officially at RTM.
This week or next, that will change, and finally, official RTM copies of Windows 7 will start firing up all over the place, replacing the Win 7 7100 RC and all those pre-RTM builds, whether with officially or unofficially sourced RTM code.
Microsoft’s Windows Team Blog brings the news that OEMs will get access to RTM code “approximately 2 days” after RTM code goes gold, so they can start testing PC configurations in preparation for the October 22 general availability timeline.
ISV, IHV, TechNet, Connect and MSDN members can officially start downloading Windows 7 RTM from August 6th, just a little over two weeks from today, although this is the English-language RTM only, other languages will come October 1st.
Volume License (VL) customers with an existing Software Assurance (SA) license can download RTM code a day later on August 7th, but those VL customers without an SA license will have to wait until September 1 before they can get access.
Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified Members can use the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Portal to download RTM on August 16th.
Microsoft Action Pack Subscribers need to wait until August 23rd before they can officially start downloading.
So, what about beta testers, enthusiasts and consumers? Please read on to page 2.
Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc says that “beta testers and enthusiasts” are being given a “special thank you” that seems to consist of the words “special thank you”.
If you were living in the US, Japan, Canada, the UK or wherever else Microsoft had its very time-limited Windows 7 “sales”, you were able to get one of the Win 7 versions at up to 50% off – whether you were a beta tester or not.
While the US sale lasted several days, sales in the UK seemed to last for a millisecond before “stocks” were sold out – as if software itself could sell out in today’s world of downloads.
Sadly Microsoft has not yet made any such offers to its Australian customers, but Microsoft has publicly promised “more special deals” to come, presumably in various parts of the world, so if you missed out on Microsoft’s initial half-price offer (or weren’t in a country where it was offered), you’ll likely get another chance at a discount in the future.
One long awaited development from Microsoft is an official “Family Pack” for Windows 7. It will only be offered as a 3-user pack, and not also in a 5-user pack as Apple is doing with its OS X (or unlimited user packs as free Linux distros offer), but at least Microsoft has finally woken up to the fact a family discount should be offered.
Let’s hope the family pack is permanent, covers many more markets than Microsoft’s “select markets” possibly implies, and doesn’t just degenerate into an unwelcome time-limited special offer that will never be repeated until Windows 8 comes along.
“Regular” consumers will still have to wait until October 22 to buy a boxed copy of Windows 7 or to buy a PC pre-loaded with the software.
Some retail copies and some OEM PCs will probably be on sale a little before the October 22 deadline, as has happened in the past with previous versions of Windows, while those who have already pre-ordered Windows 7 should receive it “sometime around the October 22nd timeframe”, which Microsoft says depends on the retailer.
Of course the nanosecond Windows 7 does go officially RTM and leaks to the Internet, hackers and pirates will be hard at work infecting RTM copies of Windows 7 with malware, creating license key and activation code cracks and more.
But that’s no surprise – hackers have already been doing this with the Windows 7 beta, RC and leaked pre-RTM builds.
The end of the beginning of the Windows 7 saga is nigh, as is the start of Windows 7’s next “general availability” chapter, but whether it’s the beginning of the end for Microsoft due to the threat of Google Chrome, Ubuntu, Mac OS X, open source or something else is still very much up for debate.