The anticipated release candidate (RC) for Windows 7 is now available, Microsoft announced.
Mike Nash, corporate vice president, Windows product management group at Microsoft, said Thursday the RC for Windows 7 was released to members of the MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) and TechNet services today, and to the general public on May 5.
Speaking to members of the media in a conference call, Nash said Windows 7's "XP Mode", which will allow Windows XP applications to be run in a virtual machine within the new OS, is aimed at addressing migration fears among companies.
He said this is focused on SMBs (small and midsize businesses) which may not want or have the resources to get their existing applications ported over to Windows 7's architecture.
XP mode will only be available with Professional and Ultimate editions of the OS, and will be valid 12 months from the final release of Windows 7.
According to reports online, analysts have said XP mode may give users a "false sense of security" with regard to support for XP applications, because mainstream support for XP has ended, with the "extended" support phase lasting only till April 2014.
Microsoft also touched on the Windows 7's new touch-friendly gestures, aimed at enabling touch-screen users to navigate the OS.
Nash said the capability is built into the interface and thus will work with all applications.
While this is aimed at keyboard-less portable devices, it was pointed out that the three-application restriction on Windows 7's Starter edition--meant to run on netbooks and other portable devices--would cripple the user experience.
Nash also confirmed that running applications such as instant messengers would count toward the three applications.
Microsoft executives present at the call said that following this release, Microsoft would move on to its RTM (release to manufacturing) build, and will not release another version of the RC.
Microsoft has said that moving from this RC to the final version of Windows 7 will require users togo back and upgrade from Vista, or follow a string of steps.