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Some Beta Testers Getting Windows 7 for Free

Microsoft last week showed its appreciation to beta testers of Windows 7 by extending free copies to them -- well, not all of them.

The free Windows 7 offer represents a turnabout for Microsoft according to a Thursday Windows 7 blog post. It apparently wasn't part of Redmond's original plan.

Still, it turns out that Microsoft is only offering the free copies to invited testers of Windows 7 who actually participated. Those testers would have received letters from Microsoft inviting them to join the beta. While some testers got thank-you notes from Microsoft, that doesn't necessarily mean that they were technical preview invitees, according to Microsoft's TechNet forum.

Participants who are eligible for a free Windows 7 copy will get an e-mail from Microsoft confirming the free copy soon, according to Anthony Mann of the TechNet forum. Such private beta testers would have used the Microsoft Connect Web portal to correspond and would be designated as members of the Microsoft "technical beta program."

"If you were a member of the Technical Beta Program, you would have received an ID key that identifies you as such and allows you access to resources that are restricted for the public," explained TechNet forum participant Sanmartin.

Many beta testers likely will be left holding their expiring Windows 7 release candidate bits, along with nothing more than fond memories of having improved Microsoft's product. The beta of Windows 7 expired on Aug. 1. The release candidate version of Windows 7 still can be downloaded until Aug. 20, according to Microsoft's Springboard blog.

Those still testing the release candidate version of Windows 7 will be able to use it until March 1, 2010. At that date, the OS will warn users that it's expiring by shutting down every two hours.

In the meantime, the Windows 7 product is coming soon, with general release scheduled for Oct. 22. TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network subscribers will be able to download the Windows 7 product even earlier -- on Aug. 6.

Microsoft has consistently credited Windows 7 beta testers for helping to get a quality product out the door.

"Windows 7 has also been one of the most broadly and deeply tested releases of software we have ever had," the Windows 7 engineering team explained. Millions ran the operating system, the team added. Microsoft was able to get reports on bugs in near real time via an automatic feedback reporting tool in Windows 7.

For those who want to become part of Microsoft's beta testers, the company describes how to apply here. Getting on the invited technical preview list appears to require a bit more effort.

"When future beta tests are created, you will be contacted to fill out a Survey. New Technical Beta Testers are selected from participants in the survey," Microsoft's TechNet forum explained.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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