Windows 7 alpha at PDC: Microsoft

Previews to be released at conference

Microsoft has confirmed that it will hand out preview copies of Windows 7 to attendees at this month's Professional Developers Conference (PDC).

In a post to the PDC website, Microsoft says developers will get a "pre-beta" release of Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista, on October 28.

"Keynote attendees will be among the first to receive the pre-beta build of Windows 7," the company says.

Steven Sinofsky, who heads Windows development, will deliver a keynote address on October 28, the second day of the conference, which opens the day before and runs through October 30 in Los Angeles.

Mike Swanson, a Microsoft technology evangelist working on the PDC, says attendees will receive a 160GB external USB hard drive that will contain all the developer bits from the conference. The USB drive will presumably include the pre-beta version of Windows 7.

Last month, Mike Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said that he expected developers at either PDC, or the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), which is scheduled for November 5-7, to receive Windows 7 code.

"When that many developers [come] together, you want them to go home with something that they can play with," Cherry said at the time. "Microsoft will want to do more than just tell developers about Windows 7."

More recently, he was cautiously optimistic that the announcement meant Microsoft was on track with Windows 7. "If they didn't do this, you would have to wonder if they could make the schedule," Cherry said. But the fact that Microsoft's handing out an alpha doesn't necessarily mean the operating system will be done by 2009, the date most often circulated by analysts. "We now know they're making progress. They at least have something they're confident enough in to share," Cherry continued. "But the next question is, how far along is it? And we won't know that until people load it up," he says.

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