Windows 7 beta 1 makes early debut

Apparently leaked copies of Microsoft's forthcoming operating system pop up on torrent trackers.

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A screen shot purported to be from Windows 7 beta 1. ZDNet.com

The first beta of Microsoft's next operating system has apparently been spotted in the wild.

Windows 7, which is expected to hit retailer shelves in time for the 2009 holiday shopping season, has reportedly popped up on torrent trackers as an ISO file. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes also reports having a copy and has posted his first impressions of the beta.

Overall, Kingsley-Hughes wrote that he likes Windows 7, calling it "solid and fast." But he does take issue with a few new features:

The new revamped taskbar is visually very interesting (and certainly a lot easier to use at higher screen resolutions that the Vista or XP taskbar), but it tries to do too much and as such comes across as kludgey and counter-intuitive. One failure is that it's hard to tell the difference between apps that are running and shortcuts that have been pinned to the taskbar.

Microsoft demoed the forthcoming operating system at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last month, but apparently the differences between Windows 7 and Vista were so subtle that they can go unnoticed. Attendees to PDC 2008 received pre-beta copies of Windows 7 on DVD, as well as a 160GB Western Digital portable hard drive packed with code.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to talk up Windows 7 from a consumer perspective during his keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics next week. Microsoft is expected to officially distribute the first beta to beta testers in early January.