Microsoft sent to a select group of testers on December 16 invitations to participate in Windows 7 Beta 1.
Individuals who received the invites are considered "tech beta testers." From the note Microsoft sent to the invitees:
"While (the Windows 7) beta will not be available until early 2009 we, know you are excited to get started so we have opened the microsoft.beta.win7.lobby (on the Microsoft Connect site) so you may begin renewing acquaintances with previous participants as well as meeting new testing peers. After accepting the invitation, you will be able to sign into Microsoft Connect and click on the 'Windows 7 Beta Program' link for more information on accessing the newsgroups.
"As well, to better understand our audience and how we are asking you to complete the following three surveys to tell us about yourself. Each survey has 20-40 questions and each should take you approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. You don’t have to take them all at once nor do you have to do it right now. We ask though that at some point you find time to complete them. As a thank-you for completing these prior to the end of the calendar year (Prior to January 1st, 2009) each participant who completes all three surveys (or indicates 'already taken') will be put into a drawing and five winners selected to receive some Windows 7 logo’ed toys!"
Beta 1 will be the first -- and I've heard only -- Windows 7 test build that Microsoft plans to make available to the public. I asked Microsoft how long after the tech beta testers get their code will the company make Beta 1 available to the public.
No word back yet.
Update: Microsoft declined to comment on when a public release of Beta 1 would occur. A spokesperson also declined to comment on how many folks will be part of the Windows 7 Beta 1 tech beta tester pool.
Microsoft officials said at the Professional Developers Conference that the company was planning to release Windows 7 Beta 1 in early 2009. My ZDNet blogging colleague Ed Bott has put a stake in the ground with his prediction of a January 13, 2009 Beta 1 release date.
Until quite recently, Microsoft was planning to make Windows 7 Beta 1 available to the public just before Christmas. Just last month, a few folks told me the Windows 7 team was slated to do its "beta engineering signoff" on December 10. A one-week internal Windows 7 beta release was slated for December 11 to 17. And Windows 7 "beta product availability" was scheduled to commence on December 17. That December 17 date was for the public Windows 7 Beta 1, I was told by various sources.
If Microsoft is now planning to get tech beta testers code in the new year, I'd expect that the final Windows 7 release could be slightly later than the mid-2009 date I've been hearing for the past several weeks. But word is the Windows 7 team is still tracking to get the code to PC makers in time for them to preload it on new PCs for the holiday 2009 season.