Microsoft on Tuesday began shutting down its download servers for the Windows 7 Public Beta, ending weeks of unfettered access to a feature-complete, near-ready version of its next operating system. The shutdown will occur in two phases. Yesterday, the software giant turned off access to new downloads. Those who still have downloads in progress, however, have until 9am PST tomorrow to complete those downloads.
The download stoppage refers only to the public servers. Microsoft customers with MSDN or TechNet subscriptions can continue to download the Windows 7 Beta via those programs.
Microsoft originally opened up the Windows 7 Beta to the public on January 9, but surprisingly high demand swamped Microsoft's servers, requiring the company to take them offline for most of the day. The next day, Microsoft upped capacity and restored the downloads, and extended the period during which people could download the beta. While the software giant has yet to release official figures, several million people are expected to have downloaded and installed the Windows 7 Beta on their PCs.
Reviews of the Beta have been overwhelmingly positive, in sharp contrast to the public's reception of the very similar Windows Vista. Most have described the Beta has essentially bug free, highly compatible, and usable in day-to-day situations. This, too, is in sharp contrast to the experience with most Windows betas.
Microsoft's next Windows 7 milestone in a single major release candidate (RC) build, which is expected to be offered to the public as well. Again, Microsoft isn't talking, but I think an April timetable is reasonable. I expect the final release of Windows 7 to occur sometime around mid-year. Not coincidentally, the Windows 7 Beta expires on August 1, 2009: Just after I expect Microsoft to finalize the product.
Windows 7 Beta Availability
Windows 7 Beta Review
The Windows 7 Public Beta Arrives