Microsoft announced on Thursday that it will sell a European version of Windows 7 sans Internet Explorer. The decision to ship these specialized “E” versions of Windows 7 arises from a January decision by the European Commission that determined the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows violated European competition law. The new E versions will be available in 23 different languages and are projected to launch at the same time as regular versions of Windows 7. One side benefit of this “un-bundling” is that computer manufacturers will be able to install their browser of choice on Windows 7 systems. Mozilla, Opera, Google; get to courting… Hooray for fair business practice, umm, if that’s what this is.
Mark your calendars, Windows fans. Ballmer’s crew has just made the launch date for Windows 7 official: October 22nd, 2009. Since Microsoft first released Windows 7 to the public in beta form (and even well before then), feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, many were caught by surprise. Windows 7 is a breath of fresh air to those who were blindsided by a disastrous Vista launch and who didn’t bother to stick around to sample later, infinitely more stable/usable builds. Despite the fact that it has maintained its market share very well, Microsoft has been in a constant battle to revitalize its image since then. Efforts were hit and miss until the company’s latest effort, the Laptop Hunter campaign, which has been very well received. Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign simply rehashes the same jabs over and over at this point and with a global recession in full swing, shoppers seem much more receptive to Microsoft’s message of affordability and value than Apple’s recycled quips. If Redmond can ride the wave until October, Windows 7 could certainly be a death blow to Apple’s already-dwindling market share. That is, if we don’t see a more affordable option from Apple before then.
In an age where lightweight, undersized netbooks are all the rage, Microsoft is most definitely wise to manufacturers’ game. That game, of course, is to keep netbook pricing as low as possible while slowly but surely raising the bar where specs are concerned. One of the many ways manufacturers can keep netbook pricing down is by taking advantage of a cheaper edition of Microsoft’s OS, which means less revenue for Redmond. As such, Microsoft instates a set of maximum specifications a PC must not exceed in order to offer its base OS. Above to the right, you’ll find said maximum specs for Windows 7 Starter Edition. As compared to XP/Vista’s max specs, we can see that processor speed has been doubled and 90GB has been tacked on where HDD space is concerned. Nice. On the flip side of the coin, max display size has been cut from 12.1 inches to 10.2 inches. Not so nice. In the end we’re certainly left with a pretty capable netbook but if you’ll be looking for a netbook that raises the bar without breaking the bank in the near future, it probably won’t be running Win 7.
Microsoft confirmed on Friday the rumored May release of Windows 7 RC1. The release candidate version of Microsoft’s upcoming OS will be available on April 30th to MSDN and TechNet subscribers, with a broader public availability slated for May 5th. RC1 adds several new features to Windows 7 including remote media streaming, Windows XP mode and some slick new eye candy. Also the remote media streaming, if it works as well as promised, might just give services like Orb a run for their money. Associate your Windows Media player library with your Windows Live ID and you can stream your media across the Internet from any remote PC. Sweet! Before you get too excited, this is Microsoft we’re talking about so both computers must be running the same version of Windows Media player. This cool new feature will not work from Mac or Linux machines, so take note if your personal arsenal of computers includes any.
Windows 7 will also include a new XP Mode meant to assist businesses as they transition from Windows XP to Windows 7. XP Mode will utilize Windows Virtual PC to provide a full-fledged Windows XP virtual environment which, theoretically, will allow users to run all those legacy Windows XP applications without issue. Last but not least, Windows 7 RC1 will see some eye candy in the form of stunning background graphics. Microsoft has been slowly adding new background images throughout the development process and now the public will get its first look at Microsoft’s sense of style. All you folks still running Windows XP with its default green rolling hills background might just be pleasantly surprised.
Microsoft’s Engineering Windows 7 Blog posted details on some of the new features users will see in the release candidate version of Windows 7. One of the more interesting notes is the expansion of the “Windows Features” control panel, which allows users to enable or disable certain functionality within Windows 7. Along with the typical applications listed in Vista and Windows 7 Beta version, the list has been expanded to include the following applications:
- Windows Media Player
- Windows Media Center
- Windows DVD Maker
- Internet Explorer 8
- Windows Search
- Handwriting Recognition (through the Tablet PC Components option)
- Windows Gadget Platform
- Fax and Scan
- XPS Viewer and Services (including the Virtual Print Driver)
No, you did not misread the list. Microsoft is indeed allowing its users to disable Internet Explorer 8 along with Windows Media Player, Windows Search, Windows Media Center and more. Microsoft does clarify that “disabling” does not equate with “removal” — the application’s components will remain an integral part of the operating system and can not be removed. This is not the complete removal option many have been waiting for Microsoft to implement but it is, nonetheless, a step in the right direction.
If you’ve tried Microsoft’s Windows 7 beta for any period of time, odds are you’re pretty impressed with its performance. Many call it what Vista should have been and we’re not so sure that’s a bad thing – remove the stigma from Vista, make some key (major, at times) tweaks and you’re left with a solid OS. If you’re in the seemingly massive group of unhappy Vista customers however, the questions are now twofold: 1. Are you ready to trust Redmond again and embrace 7? 2. How much cash are you willing to drop in the process? Courtesy of an anonymous Ars Technica tipster we may now have our first glimpse at Microsoft’s pricing scheme once 7 drops:
- Windows 7 Starter: $199
- Windows 7 Home Premium: $259
- Windows 7 Professional: $299
- Windows 7 Ultimate: $319
Now before flames rain down, let’s start at the beginning. This is not upgrade pricing, this is fresh box pricing. We do have a bit of good news today in the form of confirmation from Microsoft that it will be offering a Windows 7 upgrade package for those of us still running XP, though the news is somewhat sullied by the fact that an upgrade will require a complete wipe. So with that out of the way, this rumored pricing isn’t terrible. It places entry-level pricing at the same level as Vista and knocks $80 off the Ultimate edition, though we know Ultimate will only be available during promotional periods. Home Premium pricing jumps up by $20 which seems a tad odd, while Professional maintains its $300 price tag. Given that the price model was hardly among notable barriers for Vista we wouldn’t be surprised if these prices indeed end up hitting shelves. As far as upgrade pricing is concerned, we would expect it to stick close to Vista as well. While the base upgrade price for Vista is $99 however, Microsoft should get a little saucy with 7 and show us a $77 limited-time launch price on the Starter edition. Make it happen, Redmond.
To say Microsoft’s handling of Windows 7 to date has been nothing short of excellent would be an understatement. To paraphrase, the world wants 7. Working towards a very stable beta release and then making it available to the general public was a very smooth move – it showed the tech blogosphere, Vista’s harshest collective critic, that hope is not lost. 7 is fast, 7 is capable and most importantly, 7 is usable. The fun couldn’t last forever though and Microsoft announced last night that the public availability of the Windows 7 beta is coming to an end. Those of you who still haven’t gotten around to download the beta will have until February 10 to begin the process as no new downloads can be initiated as of that date. As the ISO is massive however, those who initiate downloads before the deadline will have until February 12 to complete them. Beta product keys will continue to be available after the deadline though, so stragglers need not worry. The key for Redmond now is to work tirelessly to ensure upcoming milestones are met and Windows 7 is rolled out on time. The world is high on 7 right now and the longer it has to wait for its next taste, the more people will have forgotten this round of praise.