Windows 7 Waits on Partner Readiness, Sinofsky Says

Users testing Microsoft's Windows 7 Beta have been asking Microsoft when it will release the final product, but Microsoft isn't saying right now, according to a Windows 7 team blog posted on Friday.

The reluctance to announce the date stems from Microsoft's need to coordinate with its partner ecosystem, wrote Steven Sinofsky in the blog. Sinofsky is Microsoft's senior vice president of the Windows and Windows Live engineering group.

Partners will need time to get their hardware drivers and applications up to speed, the blog explains. PC builders also need time to validate the Windows 7 team's work. Microsoft's partners have been receiving interim builds of Windows 7 since its pre-beta release in November.

Driver compatibility is a touchy subject for Microsoft. The issue dogged Windows Vista purchasing early on, giving pause to new PC buyers and IT professionals alike. Microsoft claims to have since remedied the situation.

For instance, back in November of last year, Jon DeVaan, Microsoft's senior vice president of the core operating system division, told WinHEC attendees that "today over 95 percent of PCs have all the drivers that they need" to run Windows Vista.

Some testers of Windows 7 Beta have experienced problems running older hardware and software, but the reception has been generally positive, judging from Microsoft forum comments. Microsoft is making the claim that if software and devices worked with Vista, then they will work with Windows 7, because the two operating systems share a common code base.

The next stage will be a release candidate version of Windows 7, followed by release to manufacturing and general availability. Microsoft has typically publicized early 2010 as the Windows 7 general availability date. The company defines general availability as the time when new PCs can be bought with the operating system installed.

In the meantime, Microsoft has been tallying user feedback from the Windows 7 Beta release. The beta of Windows 7 is feature complete and API complete, Microsoft claims, so the team currently just concentrates on fixing bugs.

"The path to Release Candidate is all about getting the product to a known and shippable state both from an internal and external (Beta usage and partner ecosystem readiness) standpoint. We will then provide the Release Candidate as a refresh for the Beta," Sinofsky explained in the blog.

His comment may indicate that the currently released beta of Windows 7 is the final one.

The beta version of Windows 7 is set to expire on Aug. 1, and Microsoft is feeling the pressure to announce its plans for the release candidate and RTM versions. Sinofsky hinted in the blog post that "the answer is forthcoming." He also suggested there will be a sufficient lead time for release candidate users to upgrade to the final product.

"It is worth noting that the Release Candidate will continue to function long enough so no one should worry and everyone should feel free to keep running the Release Candidate," Sinofsky wrote.

Although Microsoft isn't providing the details, ZDNet blogger Ed Bott deduced that Windows 7 Beta users will be able to upgrade to the release candidate version in a period sometime between July and August of this year.

For those who didn't get the Windows 7 beta earlier, Microsoft extended public availability to Feb. 9.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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