Microsoft slates Windows 7 public beta for early 2009

The beta will be available to anyone for download, Microsoft said.

Microsoft Tuesday said that it would expand testing of Windows 7 to the general public in early 2009.

As it told attendees at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles that they would receive an alpha edition of Windows 7 later Tuesday, Microsoft also said that it would issue a public beta of the Vista successor early next year.

The beta will be available to anyone for download, Microsoft said, according to several real-time blogs covering the event, including one at LiveSide.net where several noted Windows bloggers collaborated.

Previously, Microsoft said it would solicit beta testers using its normal process of gathering names from its Connect.com site.

Interest in Windows 7 grew when Microsoft began talking up the new operating system last May during a one-day marketing blitz, and stepped up last month when the company announced it would issue "pre-beta" copies of the in-development OS to attendees at both PDC this month and at next week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), also to be held in Los Angeles.

Microsoft has not spelled out pricing for Windows 7, the number of separate editions of the OS it will sell, or even a definitive ship date. Thus far, company executives have only targeted late 2009 or early 2010 as the release time frame.

The company rolled out the first wide-scale public beta of Windows Vista in June 2006, about five months before it wrapped up the operating system.

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