Microsoft finalises Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 code

The company has released both OS to manufacturing, giving customers time to prepare for general availability in October

Microsoft on Wednesday finalized the code for its Windows 7 client OS and Windows Server 2008 R2, sending both products to manufacturing on schedule.

Microsoft already outlined in a blog post Tuesday how its various sets of customers can get the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version of the client OS either Aug. 6, 7, 16 or 23, depending on who they are.

As far as Windows Server 2008 R2's RTM goes, Microsoft's partners will get the code in the next few days, according to a blog post by Microsoft.

Customers with enterprise agreements and volume-licensing agreements will get it sometime in September, followed by the general availability of both Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 on Oct. 22, Iain McDonald, general manager of the Windows Server division, said in an interview Wednesday.

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are built on the same kernel and networking stack, but that doesn't mean Microsoft expects all customers to upgrade to both of them and deploy them together, he said.

To some customers it will make sense to do so, but if it's not part of a company's upgrade cycle to move to both systems it won't be the end of the world, McDonald said. "I want them on our platform more than I need them on our latest version," he said.

However, there are some features of Windows 7 that will run better if deployed on its complementary server release, McDonald said. One example of such a feature is Direct Access, which allows someone working independently of a corporate network to turn on a Windows 7 PC and have it automatically connect to a corporate network without deploying any application or signing in to the connection, he said.

There are some key differences between the latest Windows client and server releases and the previous release cycle. It's the first time since the Windows NT server release and the Windows 2000 client OS release that Microsoft has not doubled the requirements of the hardware systems the OSes run on, McDonald said.

"We did some things behind the covers to make things run great and pulled these off without the need to double the system requirements," he said, something people will particularly notice with Windows 7.

Microsoft also looped partners into the feedback and testing process of both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 sooner than ever before, a move that could be particularly important to the adoption of the client OS.

Windows Vista, the current Windows client release, was skipped by many business customers and also took a hit in the consumer market due to the emergence of netbooks as a popular replacement to the full-sized PC. Windows Vista did not run well on netbooks, which run XP or Linux.

Philip Osako, director of product marketing for Microsoft OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partner Toshiba, said Windows Vista's performance on netbooks was not considered as Microsoft was building that OS. However, with Windows 7, Toshiba tested the performance of the OS on netbooks as well as full-sized PCs, and Microsoft took the company's feedback under serious consideration.

Microsoft also specifically added new features to Windows 7 based on feedback from Toshiba and other partners, which should bode well for its adoption, Osako said.

For example, Toshiba advised Microsoft that since many people were still running Windows XP, the company should include a feature in the OS to ensure application compatibility between that OS and Windows 7, he said. As a result, Microsoft created the Virtual XP mode feature of Windows 7 that allows older Windows applications to run on Windows 7 as if they were running on XP, Osako said.

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