Windows 7 to Be Free for a Year, Starting Today
As of today, adventurous PC users can download the free Windows 7 release candidate, it seems to be learning from the heinous experience of the Vista release. Redmond is making the May 5 release of Windows 7 available for free, for a year.
(However, on March 1, 2010, it will start automatically shutting down every two hours. Seriously)
The final, commercial version is more or less on track for a holiday-season release. Think of those confirmation popups as stocking stuffers.
When Vista dropped, customers were faced with a dizzying array of operating system packages, all of which had different hardware requirements, and (from personal experience) none of which worked. So, basically, "expensive and broken" was the name of the Vista game, and, if Microsoft wants to maintain credibility (look at how relatively little enterprise uptake there was for Vista, and XP is still available to this day), they're banking on "free and somewhat-fixed", as no release candidate can really be perfect.
Once installed, the Windows 7 release candidate will be free until June 2010. "Release candidate", by the way, means "not quite beta, but not 100% ready for prime time".
The software will not expire until 1 June 2010, giving testers more than a year's free access to Windows 7.
"It's available to as many people who see fit to use it, although we wouldn't recommend it to just your average user," John Curran, director of the Windows Client Group told PC Pro. "We'd very strongly encourage anyone on the beta to move to the Release Candidate."
After years of uncontested desktop operating system rule, the combination of the Vista flop, the growing maturity of the Linux desktop, and the Mac's growing popularity, Microsoft was losing its grip. So now, by giving away the Windows 7 RC (release candidate), which won't expire until June 1 2010, Microsoft is now in the free software business.
[Disclaimer: though I use XP, Vista, and OSX daily, I consider myself a Mac person (though not quite at "fanboy" levels)... I really want to like Windows, but interoperability, stability and security issues make that impossible- this is, of course, just my own opinion]