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Microsoft extends free Windows 7 trial

IT pros have until the end of the year to download Windows 7 Enterprise to test their systems' compatibility with the new OS

Microsoft has extended its programme offering businesses a free trial of Windows 7 Enterprise to the end of 2010.

The 90-day trial programme was introduced in September, ahead of Windows 7's official launch. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced the new schedule for it.

"Due to popular demand, the Windows Enterprise Trial program has been extended. This means you now have till 31 December 2010 to download and evaluate the trial version," wrote Stephen Rose, senior community manager for Windows, in a post to the Windows team blog.

The trial is only available for enterprises with more than 250 machines. It is intended to give IT professionals in those businesses the opportunity to evaluate Microsoft's latest operating system on their existing hardware and software, as well as to test the upgrade to the OS on their corporate networks.

"In addition, it provides the opportunity for you to become more familiar with the key improvements," Microsoft said.

Under the programme, testers receive the final RTM (release to manufacturing) version of Windows 7 Enterprise, in either 32-bit or 64-bit format. The trial does not require a separate product key, as there is one embedded in the download. After the 90-day trial period is up, companies must remove the OS from their systems and choose whether to pay for a full version.

Enterprises wanting support during their trial were told to refer to Microsoft's TechNet Windows 7 forums.

Forrester Research, which on Monday published results from a survey of 4,500 consumers in the US, found that Windows 7 has made a strong initial impression. It said that in general, "Windows 7 adopters are very satisfied with their PCs".

However, a breakdown of the statistics was less positive. Forrester's survey found that 48 per cent of users would wait till they bought a new PC to get Windows 7, while 43 per cent do not see any reason to upgrade from Windows XP. Forty-one per cent said they were "reluctant" to upgrade to Windows 7, while just 18 per cent said they had received a recommendation from friends or family to upgrade to the latest operating system.