Windows 7 - What We See Is What We'll Get

The Windows 7 beta we're all using today is functionally what will ship as Windows 7 moves to a Release Candidate (RC) and later the generally available product gold bits. That according to a blog post by Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky.

This is where we stand today. We've released the feature complete Beta and have made it available broadly around the world... The next milestone for the development of Windows 7 is the Release Candidate or "RC".

Microsoft is listening to our feedback and telemetry data from our use experience, performance and any crashes experienced while using the beta. According to Steven's blog post Microsoft receives a "Send Feedback" comment every 15 seconds on average. There will be changes and refinements going into the RC release based on all this data but by and large what we see today in Windows 7 is what we'll be receiving in the RC.

Microsoft is making good on its commitment to shorten the Windows development release life cycle by shipping the next Windows version within three years of Vista's release. Microsoft's doing this in part by collapsing the release process into fewer steps and providing betas and RCs that are much closer to the software we'll see in shipping product. Here's Steven's description of the collapsed process Microsoft is introducing with Windows 7:

  • Pre-Beta - This release at the PDC introduced the developer community to Windows 7 and represents the platform complete release and disclosure of the features.
  • Beta - This release provided a couple of million folks the opportunity to use feature complete Windows 7 while also providing the telemetry and feedback necessary for us to validate the quality, reliability, compatibility and experience of Windows 7. As we said, we are working with our partners across the ecosystem to make sure that testing and validation and development of Windows 7-based products begins to enter final phases as we move through the Beta.
  • Release Candidate (RC) - This release will be Windows 7 as we intend to ship it. We will continue to listen to feedback and telemetry with the focus on addressing only the most critical issues that arise. We will be very clear in communicating any changes that have a visible impact on the product. This release allows the whole ecosystem to reach a known state together and make sure that we are already together for the Release to Manufacturing. Once we get to RC, the whole ecosystem is in "dress rehearsal" mode for the next steps.
  • Release to Manufacturing (RTM) - This release is the final Windows 7 as we intend to make available to PC makers and for retail and volume license products.
  • General Availability (GA) - This is a business milestone and represents when you can buy Windows 7 pre-installed on PCs or as full packaged product.

Based on the quality and stability of the Windows 7 beta, I'd say the new process is working quite well. I can't think of when we've seen a Microsoft product first beta that worked so well right out of the chute.

The fact that Windows 7 functionality won't change much between now and the final Windows 7 release is a good thing on several fronts. One, it means there's much less a chance of new features (i.e. less tested code) getting added late into the process. This means a better tested, more stable product for all of us. It also means there's some predictability of what we'll get in the final product based on the beta version. The downside is you probably aren't going to see that "one more feature" you were hoping would make it into the final shipping product.

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