It appears testers will have to wait longer to get their hands on Vista's successor

Windows 7 is one of the hottest topics in the tech community today.  Set to debut in late 2009 or early 2010, Microsoft's latest version of Windows promises to make up ground in areas Windows Vista lacked, by offering a leaner build, innovative user interface technology such as touch inputs, and better hardware partner support.  With regular blogs streaming from Microsoft's Redmond, Washington Windows 7 development team, the company is in full swing preparing for the release.

Fans, developers, and customers are eagerly awaiting the release of the first beta candidate of the new OS.  Initially speculation was that Microsoft would roll out beta 1 at its late October Professional Developers Conference (PDC), or at the latest, at its early November Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).

However, it appears that the release has been pushed back.  ZDNet cites inside sources as saying that the earliest the beta 1 might be released would be mid-December.  A scant few already have their hands on the new OS.  Some hardware partners and a select group of customers were given access to the two milestones -- alpha builds of sorts -- M1 and M2.  The Windows team is supposedly in the process of wrapping up M3 for release.

The slip has led many to speculate that Microsoft may release an interim Community Technology Preview (CTP) build for release to a broader group of testers.  However, if it has such plans, Microsoft is leaving its customers and hardware partners in the dark about them.  Most reticently believe that Microsoft will not release Windows 7 previews to a wider audience until it’s nearly feature-complete.

One thing that is known is that Microsoft is collecting testers for the eventual beta release through its Connect site.  A post on the Windows 7 Engineering blog by Christina Storm, a program manager on the Windows Customer Engineering feature team, states:

When we release the Windows 7 beta we will also be collecting feedback from this (Windows Feedback) panel and asking for participation from a set of Windows 7 beta users.Our current plans call for signing up for the beta to happen in the standard Microsoft manner on Stay tuned!

If the beta 1 does drop in December, it will mean that there will be less than a year between it and the targeted release to market date (late 2009).  Some speculate that this may be because Windows engineering chief Steven Sinofsky routinely delivered short betas for the Office team he once headed.  While some are speculating that this could be a significant mistake, leading to Vista-like compatibility issues, its virtually set in stone that Microsoft is going to take things at its own pace.  In the meantime, the rest of the tech community is left to patiently wait.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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