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Week in review: Microsoft releases

Windows 7 OS release candidate goes out the door, along with a few thousand employees. Also, Amazon takes the wraps off new e-book reader, while Google gets grief for book scanning.

After arriving first on torrent sites and then last week showing up on Microsoft's developer program Web sites, the release candidate of Windows 7 operating system arrived on the main late on Monday night. The software was slated to be made publicly available on Tuesday.

The release candidate version, officially build 7100, is expected to be the last major public test of the product before it is finalized. The company will only officially confirm it plans to release Windows 7 before Windows Vista hits its third anniversary of broad availability in January. However, the software maker is widely seen as aiming to finish it soon enough for it to be on PCs that ship during this year's holiday shopping season.

The latest official update to what some are calling the largest shareware trial period ever introduces more than mere bug fixes as the operating system upgrades from beta to release candidate. The Windows 7 release candidate does contain several major and minor changes, but the overall experience remains largely unchanged.

What's most important to you about the release candidate will depend on your perspective. Certainly, one of the biggest new features makes Windows Media Player useful again: you can now stream media files from one Windows 7 computer to another, across the Internet and out of network. Even better, the setup procedure is dead simple.

However, Microsoft has failed to remove a long-recognized Windows Explorer security risk from Windows 7, according to security company F-Secure. The "hide extensions" feature, which was present in Windows NT, 2000, XP, and Vista, is also included in the Windows 7 release candidate, The feature could allow virus writers to trick users into opening and running malicious files, he added.

A small brouhaha is erupting over Windows 7 and Intel processors. The hubbub is centered on which Intel processors will not support "XP mode" in Windows 7 and, by extension, which PCs will not support XP mode. Retail laptops may be one of the most prominent segments affected.

The other major release from the software maker came in the form of layoffs--Microsoft on Tuesday notified more than 3,000 workers that it is eliminating their jobs. The software maker said in January that it would cut up to 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months. It made 1,400 cuts at the time. With the second wave, Microsoft has cut nearly all 5,000 jobs already.

Now playing: Watch this: Amazon launches the Kindle DX

Also of note

Amazon's big-screen Kindle DX makes its debut

The new device is geared toward readers of personal and professional documents, newspapers, magazines--and textbooks, a potentially huge market.
•  Kindle DX: Hands-on impressions
•  Is Kindle a newspaper savior?
•  Could the Kindle DX save Sprint Nextel?

May 6

Google: FTC examining Schmidt-Apple relationship

Google does not believe that CEO Eric Schmidt's participation on the boards of both Google and Apple presents a problem, but confirmed the FTC is taking a look.
•  Google expects scrutiny, likes Netbooks
May 6

Google: We're good for journalism

Under fire for being a 'parasite' that's hurting the media business, Google offers a rebuttal in Senate testimony.
•  Execs reveal why newspapers don't block Google
May 6

Cybercriminals use fake search engines to spread malware

Security researchers say fake search engines are showing up in Google search results and lead to Web sites hosting malware.
•  Q&A: FBI agent looks back on time posing as a cybercriminal
May 6

Study: E-waste build-up will plateau by 2015

Recycling efforts will increase and eventually catch up to the rate at which we're producing electronic junk.
•  Do Google's carbon offsets add up to much?
May 6

Boom times for prepaid cell phone operators

MetroPCS and Leap Wireless are the latest prepaid operators that offer a low-cost unlimited plan to announce huge subscriber gains.
•  Prepaid wireless service could spur price war
May 7

Patent reveals Google's book-scanning advantage

Google is cagey about exactly how it scans books for its digital library effort, but a patent reveals details--and the hurdles competitors face.
•  Library groups gripe about Google Book Search
May 4

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