Microsoft has officially made available the Release Candidate for Windows 7 to all MSDN and TechNet subscribers. The rest of the public will be getting their chance to download the disc image next week on May 5.
Like all pre-release software, it’s free. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between developer and user. The user gets to use the software for free in exchange for providing the developer with valuable test data and feedback.
Windows 7 Release Candidate is a little bit different from previous Microsoft pre-release software in its validity period, stretching past one year long. Documentation for the Windows 7 RC says that the OS won’t expire until June 1, 2010 – giving users 13 months of licensed use from software.
It’s a particularly lengthy testing period allowance, given that the Windows 7 Beta Build 7000 expires on August 1, 2009 with bi-hourly shutdowns beginning July 1, 2009.
The longest testing period for a Windows Vista RC was nine months, stretching from September 2006 to June 2007.
Microsoft doesn’t need to give the Windows 7 RC such a long testing allowance. After all, Microsoft has said that the final version of Windows 7 will hit three years after Vista, making it January 2010. A nine month window would have been fine for real testing and feedback purposes.
Given the enthusiast response and reception to Windows 7, however, Microsoft’s motive for giving the new RC such a long testing period could be to get users hooked on using the new OS. The longer the testing window, the longer users will continue using it – and by the time the final version hits retail, that’ll in turn give testers more chances to pony up the cash for the license.
Furthermore, unlike the public beta, Microsoft won’t be restricting the number of downloads of the RC. Is this a case of Microsoft being charitable, or simply just the company’s way of wiping the bad memories of Vista off as many computers as possible? Let us know what you think.