The Release Candidate (RC) of Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system was released to the subscribers of MSDN, TechNet and TechBeta yesterday. Come May 5, it will be made available to the general public, and will remain so past June 2009. According to Microsoft, there will be no limits on the number of product keys for Windows 7 RC, which should hopefully eliminate a mad scramble to download.
Despite Windows 7 beta being touted as being "feature complete," it appears that Windows 7 RC dropped several features that were previously in Windows 7 beta, while picking up the ability to stream media between PCs in a Slingbox-like fashion. Microsoft has said it does not have plans for another release candidate.
Frankly, what caught my attention were not the minute changes and improvements under the hood, but the fact that users will be allowed to run Windows 7 RC for a whopping 13 months - for free. This is more than a year, which is a long time no matter how you look at it.
So what do the generous licensing terms mean for SMBs?
To me, the sheer length of the trial period means that small and medium-sized businesses might actually want to consider testing Windows 7 on existing machines. Barring major issues - which I seriously doubt exist at this point, the comparatively more nimble SMB can even start using Windows 7 as its chief operating system.
Timed correctly, the expiry of the evaluation license for Windows 7 RC next year can be made to coincide with your organization's regular hardware upgrading. By then, new computers should come with a version Windows 7 already preinstalled. Acer has already announced that it will have Windows 7 PCs on shelves October 23.
But why switch to Windows 7 earlier? For one, the availability of Windows 7 RC is a clear sign that Microsoft's newest operating system will be released soon. As
such, switching to Windows 7 will ensure that any new development projects will automatically have to be tested and deployed on it, eliminating software compatibility headaches down the road. In addition, any evaluation of new software or tools will automatically sieve out those that will have problems.
At the end of the day, practically all computers sold next year will come with Windows 7. Now is as good an opportunity as any to get staffers accustomed to it. Obviously, this is contingent upon compatibility with existing software applications.
Whatever your plans are involving Windows 7, do remember to grab a copy next week and give it a spin.