By most accounts, millions of tech-saavy people as well as curiosity seekers downloaded the Windows 7 Release Candidate, and, there's a good chance that millions are still using it.
I suppose it was generous of Microsoft in a way to give this pre-release version away but at the same time, the Beta then RC testers were the people (unpaid) that helped the company debug Windows 7 or bring up other issues in forums and on their own blogs.
Technically (or officially?), at this time, there is no upgrade pricing for RC users. Whether it should have been a 'gift' or have a price, that, to me, seems like a mistake.
Here's the current timeline for Windows 7 RC users:
While Microsoft's earnings this past week showed that lots of copies are being sold, the question becomes how many and to whom .... and .... Is the rest of the world ready for the end-of-support for both Windows XP AND Vista?
Windows XP support and Vista support are both set to expire on July 13, 2010.
Despite the fact that Microsoft has extended XP support several times, there are still millions of enterprise XP boxes out there. Probably more.
Is it enough time?
Is it fair to end Vista support at the same time? Something seems terribly wrong with this approach as Vista was supposed to be what Windows 7 IS and appeared on the scene much later than Windows XP.
Reality. Windows 7 is simply the best operating system that Microsoft has ever put out there. I've been using it since day 1 of the Beta release and, well, it just works .... and offers numerous improvements in many environments.
My advice to Microsoft.
Make it friendly and easy.
There are probably millions of individuals (and more significantly enterprise users) that would LOVE to upgrade. Whether it's 'people resources', time, or waiting out an economic recovery, there are A LOT of companies that aren't going to make the latest deadlines set by Microsoft.
It could be a fantastic boom for hardware manufacturers as well but it's simply too soon.
In any event, now you know the FACTS as we know them today. There is some fine print that will allow some to escape these cutoffs, but for the most part, unless Microsoft makes a change (which I'm betting they will), your support ends in July and/or your RC goes dark on June 1.
Are YOU ready?
Update: Feb 1, 2010:
Clarification from Microsoft.
After numerous e-mails (and the comment below) we were able to verify the following:
Current Microsoft OS end-of-support dates -
Windows XP2 - July 13, 2010 - Customers need to upgrade to Windows XP3 or switch to Windows 7.
Vista RTM - April 13, 2010 - Customers need to upgrade to Vista Service Pack 2 or switch to Windows 7.
The MSL (Microsoft Support Lifecycle) ends July 13, 2010 for Windows 2000 Professional SP4 and Windows 2000 Server.