Big excitement today around the release of the Release Candidate (RC) for Windows 7. The release candidate is available on MSDN with public availability coming on May 5. So you'll be able to get the bits directly from the Windows 7 site. This posting highlights the business case of why you're customer will be moving to Windows 7. And some of the great new features of Windows 7 that are new to the RC.

The RC milestone is an important step on the path to final delivery for Windows 7 as it indicates the operating system is entering the final phases of development and is ready for thousands of partners to test, evaluate, and develop new applications, device drivers, and services.

New in the RC

New to the RC are advancements, such as Remote Media Streaming, Windows XP Mode (beta) and Windows Virtual PC:

  • Remote Media Streaming: Enables secure, remote Internet access to home-based digital media libraries from another Windows 7 PC outside the home.
  • Windows XP Mode: Utilizing Windows Virtual PC, Windows XP Mode allows small and medium business users of Windows 7 users to run many Windows XP productivity applications, launched right from the Windows 7 desktop. Windows XP Mode will be available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate customers via download or, for the best experience, preinstalled directly on new PCs. As part of today’s announcement, Microsoft is releasing the beta of Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC. For larger businesses where management is important to reduce the total cost of ownership, Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) within the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) adds management to Windows Virtual PC including centralized policy, administration experience and deployment.

Key Features For You and Your Customers

Here's a list of features in Windows 7 that your customers will be looking to use right away:

  • Direct Access: This feature enables IT Managers to provide the mobile user with reliable and secure access to the corporate network resources when user is on the Internet, without having to initiate a VPN connection. It also allows servicing and updating of remote PCs, even when they are on the road. This helps to ensure that all mobile PCs are always up to date and Powershell means IT Pros can automate many standard tasks, to help reduce helpdesk costs, minimize user disruption and ease PC management. Direct Access is delivered by Windows 7 with Windows Server 2008R2.
  • BranchCache: Delivered jointly by Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008R2, this feature enables IT pros to decrease time branch office users spend waiting to download files from remote servers by caching the previously accessed content locally in a branch’s network.
  • BitLocker™ and Bitlocker To Go Drive Encryption: This helps ensure that sensitive data is protected across PCs and removable storage devices.
  • Refined navigation: Several minor enhancements to the Windows Taskbar, Jumplists, and search make navigation and finding exactly what you want much easier
  • Internet Explorer 8: InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer 8 prevents browsing history, temporary Internet files, form data, cookies and usernames/passwords from being retained by the browser. With Windows 7, you can start an InPrivate session straight from the Jump List. You can also open a new tab from the Jump List.
  • Windows Touch: Controlling the computer by touching the screen is a core Windows 7 user experience. Improvements in the RC includes several Windows Touch updates, including the ability to drag, drop and select items with touch, even inside Web sites that scroll both horizontally and vertically.

Next Steps

More than 32,000 participants from approximately 10,000 hardware and software companies have signed up to have access to a breadth of helpful tools and resources needed to prepare for Windows 7. There are a couple/three big meta steps for you to ride the Windows 7 wave.

  1. Make sure your application is compatible. Test on your own or attend a compatibility lab in your area
  2. Certifiy your application and display the Compatible with Windows 7 logo.
  3. Light up Windows 7 by implementing customer-winning features.

I've written up a pretty comprehensive blog posting that describes how you go about all that, steps to take, and how to get started. See Walkthrough to Get Your Applications Ready for Windows 7. You'll find links to resources, source code, examples, SDK, and additional tools.

Tomorrow, we'll post scenarios that your application might have and which Windows 7 features would help give you a competitive advantage.