Just a few months after releasing a solid Windows 7 beta, Microsoft has today made the release candidate of its new operating system available for download, and confirmed that boxed copies will be in the shops in January 2010.
MSDN and TechNet subscribers can access the new release candidate today, with the rest of us able to download on 5 May. Microsoft will be offering unlimited downloads of the release candidate, which will work until June 2010. But there's no technical support offered, so don't give it to Grandma. She'll only complain, and she knows nothing about testing operating systems anyway.
Since the beta release, Microsoft told us it has had hundreds of thousands of UK testers, with the most common request being, "I want it to be faster." Country-specific desktop wallpapers and screensavers were also common suggestions.
Windows 7 new features
Despite Microsoft saying that the previous beta was feature complete, it's added something new to the release candidate code. The OS now allows for music and video content to be streamed from a PC at home, over the Internet, to a PC anywhere else in the world.
It requires both machines to be running Windows 7 and both to be part of the same 'HomeGroup'. It will allow you, for example, to stream your DRM-free MP3s or WMA music files from a computer in your bedroom, to a laptop in a hotel. Limited upload bandwidth may scupper attempts to stream large video files of course, but we're looking forward to seeing this feature in action.
Crave gets its freshly washed hands on the release candidate today, so look out for our hands-on report soon. Until then, check out our previous Windows 7 stories to learn about what to expect.
Update: CNET UK sister site ZDNet UK just received an accidental tip-off from Acer's European vice-president, Massimo D'Angelo, that Windows 7 will launch on 23 October. ZDNet UK editor Rupert Goodwins says, "it is our firm impression from the circumstances of the blooper that it's accurate."