Seven questions Microsoft won’t answer about Windows 7

Microsoft’s news embargo on Windows 7 lifts tomorrow. Today, though, I can confidently report on a handful of questions about Windows 7 that you won’t see answered in those announcements. Want to know how many editions of Windows 7 will be released? Looking for the ship date? Wondering about whether there will be a public beta? Go ahead and ask. Just don't expect any answers. Yet.

I’m spending the day (and probably much of tonight) slaving over a hot Windows 7 PC, snapping screen shots and making notes about what's new. You’ll see the results tomorrow, when Microsoft’s news embargo lifts. Today, though, I can confidently report on a handful of questions about Windows 7 that you won’t see answered in tomorrow’s announcements.

1. How many versions of Windows 7 will be available?

Customers have sent ample feedback to Microsoft about the confusing menu of versions. Setup screens from early builds of Windows 7 contain the exact mix as in Windows Vista, from Starter to Enterprise editions. But don’t draw any conclusions from that, say my sources. The final packaging decisions haven’t been made yet. (And don't ask about Ultimate Extras, either.)

2. How much will Windows 7 cost?

See above. You might guess that the price won’t go up and that Microsoft will offer some attractive upgrade offers to entice XP users. You might even be right. But you won’t get any executives from the Windows team to confirm your guess.

3. What are Windows 7’s minimum and recommended system requirements?

Microsoft has publicly proclaimed that any app or device driver written for Windows Vista will work on Windows 7. So far, though, they’ve been mum about the requirements for memory, CPU, and disk space. Expect that space to remain blank for another few months.

4. What applications and services will be included with Windows Live?

It’s no secret that several programs included with Windows Vista – Mail, Movie Maker, and Photo Gallery, for example – are being replaced by downloadable Windows Live versions. Some of these Wave 3 programs and accompanying web-based services, in fact, are already in beta. That’s not a complete list, however, and the full lineup of Windows Live Wave 3 products and services won’t be made public until November 12.

5. Will there be a public beta?

One of the biggest mistakes Microsoft made with Windows Vista was delivering too many beta releases to too many people. The result was a wave of unfocused feedback that didn’t contribute to the released product. This time around, Microsoft executives aren’t saying who will get access to betas, but it’s unlikely to be a free-for-all download – except via BitTorrent.

6. When will Windows 7 ship?

You’ve entered my pool to guess Windows 7’s ship date, right? The latest round of release-date rumors range from May 2009 to early 2010. If you ask a Microsoft executive, you get a Cheshire-cat grin and nothing more.

6.1. Why is it called Windows 7?

Don’t be a smartass.

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