Deep inside the Windows 7 Public Beta: an in-depth tour
By Peter Bright | Published: January 11, 2009 - 11:30PM CT
The next step
Last week's CES saw the announcement of the much anticipated public beta of Windows 7, with 2.5 million license keys promised to beta testers on Friday. Friday arrived, and as is now well-known, Microsoft's servers melted under the load. The key generation is now more or less working, and the 2.5 million limit has been scrapped, so it's time to take a look at what's on offer.
The first public sightings of Windows 7 were at Microsoft's PDC developer conference in October last year. The lead-up to PDC was unusually secretive, with Redmond giving little away about what Windows 7 would actually contain when it shipped, in contrast to the extremely public lead-up to Windows Vista's release. The covers came off at PDC, with the star of the show being Windows 7's new taskbar. Unfortunately, the build that was given out to PDC attendees lacked the new taskbar, so the one feature we all wanted to play with wasn't actually available. The public beta, build number 7000, finally gives us the new shiny taskbar. If all goes well, this will be the only beta Windows 7 gets; a Release Candidate should land some time around April, going RTM in July, and hitting retail two to three months later.
Windows Vista made a lot of changes to the driver model and the display layer, and took a much harder line on security, which was all very necessary work, but which caused a lot of teething trouble in its early days. Windows 7 doesn't undo any of that work; it does, however, build upon it to make using the OS simpler and more refined. The major focus with Windows 7 is how the user interacts with the machine, and so the major work in Windows 7 is to the user interface. Therefore I'll focus mainly on the new interface elements in this brief look. For those more interested in the system administrative perspective, our PDC Coverage would be a good place to start. More