Windows 7 RC Ready, May Launch In October

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Microsoft is inching closer to the release of its next version of its mainstream desktop operating system, Windows 7, beginning limited distribution of its first Release Candidate (RC) of Windows 7 to Technet and MSDN subscribers. But while Microsoft’s paid-up inner circle gets first crack at the release, the general public won’t be left in the dark for long: last week, Microsoft announced that the general public will be able to download and test Windows 7 RC1 beginning May 5.

“Listening to our partners and customers has been fundamental to the development of Windows 7,” said Microsoft’s senior VP for Windows Bill Veghte, in a statement. “We heard them and worked hard to deliver the highest quality Release Candidate in the history of Windows. We have more partner support than we’ve ever had for an RC and are pleased to say that the Windows 7 RC has hit the quality and compatibility bar for enterprises to start putting it through its paces and testing in earnest.”

Windows 7 will include improved navigation, a refined security model designed to be less annoying to users, support for touch-enabled devices, and (of course) Internet Explorer 8. Windows 7 will also be doing away with Autoplay (as a way to stymy certain types of malware), and Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 will offer a Windows XP Mode using technology borrowed from Virtual PC.

Microsoft has publicly maintained that it plans to release Windows 7 within three years of WIndows Vista’s launch, which gives the company until January of 2010 to kick the operating system out the door. However, an executive at Taiwan’s Acer (now parent company to Gateway) has said he expects his company will start offering the final version of Windows 7 on PCs as soon as October, which would put Windows 7 on the market in time for the end-of-year holiday buying season.

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