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The botched introduction of Windows 7

A few days ago I caught wind that Microsoft would be releasing the beta version of Windows 7 on Friday, January 9 to the public, but would only be allowing 2.5 million downloads. I was running an old version of Windows XP in VirtualBox on my MacBook Pro and thought I would give Windows 7 a try in there as well.

I was working late Thursday night, so when Friday rolled around, I went over to the Windows 7 page and the Window’s Team Blog. Almost immediately the blog went down. The Windows 7 page noted to check back in the afternoon. I went to bed.

Friday afternoon I checked into both sites periodically. The blog would range from down (“Site Busy” error) to barely responsive. By early evening there was a new post saying they would be delaying the roll-out of the beta while they added more resources to handle the demand.

Friday evening the Windows 7 site read:

“Thanks for your interest in the Windows 7 Beta. The volume has been phenomenal—we’re in the process of adding more servers to handle the demand. We’re sorry for the delay and we’ll re-post the Beta as soon as we can ensure a quality download experience.”

I found a direct download link to the installer via this blog post, but still lacked a beta product key, which by late Friday was still not available via official Microsoft routes. I went to bed.

Saturday morning the same message still appeared on Windows 7′s front page, with no other release information. A google search for “Windows 7 key” revealed numerous blog posts showing several ways to manipulate the Microsoft site to release a beta product key. Each was filled with comments throughout the night ranging from the “I got one!” to the later “the links don’t work anymore.” By mid-morning the top results from Google for the product key began to fill with bittorrent information and warez sites. I can only surmise the engineers have gone home for the weekend, so for now I have given up on getting a key and installed the 30-day trial. The beta expires on August 1st, 2009 anyway.

Aside from the hilarity (and possibly tragedy) of imagining this release happening from an actual brick and mortar store, there is the sobering relief that this is not the operating system I depend on for my daily productivity. Cold shivers are sent down my back as I recall the hours of my life sucked away configuring and troubleshooting a Windows XP install a few years back.

Somehow the Mozilla Foundation was able to accomplish more than 8 million downloads (more than 3 times MS’s release volume) in a single 24 hour period last year (Firefox 3 download record official). Granted that was not a completely smooth release either, but at the end of the day it did happen. To Microsoft’s credit, they were no doubt slammed with millions of hits to their website in a very short period of time. But we are talking about the developer of the most widely used operating system in the world, wasn’t that to be expected?

Anyway, here’s a screenshot of it running in VirtualBox. It runs fairly smoothly, although it does not recognize my network adapter, but that is probably a VirtualBox issue, not a Windows 7 issue.