Microsoft is offering a 90-day trial edition of Windows 7 Enterprise, intended for IT administrators and other professionals who still need to evaluate and test the operating system for its general release on Oct. 22.
"Many IT pros we talk to have been looking for a way to continue their work with the Release Candidate to test their applications, hardware and deployment strategies with final Windows 7 bits," Stephen Rose, a senior community manager for Windows, said in a Sept. 1 posting on The Windows Blog. "In response, we have created the Windows 7 Enterprise 90 Day trial edition, available beginning today."
The trial edition, which is available in both 32- and 64-bit versions and a variety of languages including Spanish and Japanese, can be downloaded here.
The release is specifically intended for IT administrators and other professionals without access to licenses through the Software Assurance Volume License agreement, MSDN and TechNet Subscriptions, or Software Assurance agreements via the Volume Licensing Download Center. However, anyone with an interest in testing the system could potentially download it.
However, the free trial also comes with a few restrictions beyond the 90-day limit. First, Microsoft is issuing a "limited number of licenses" that will be available only "while supplies last." Redmond has declined to state a specific number in this regard.
Second, IT professionals who want to keep using Windows 7 Enterprise will need to purchase it after the 90-day testing, and perform a clean installation of the operating system onto their machines. Once the trial period expires, the user's system will shut down every hour until a new operating system is installed.
Third, users will need to activate their 90-day trial within 10 days of installing the operating system on their system. Otherwise their computer will start shutting down every hour, as well.
Sept. 1 also marked the first day in which businesses can order Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 through a Microsoft Volume License Reseller. In order to speedily disseminate the operating system, Redmond plans on offering a 15-percent price cut for purchasers of the Windows 7 Professional upgrade, a deal which will run for six months.
Microsoft needs its new operating system to be embraced by IT professionals and procurement specialists, as SMB (small- to medium-sized business) and enterprise penetration is a key part of its Windows 7 rollout strategy. Windows 7 is perhaps the key component of Microsoft's strategy to reverse its declining revenues in the midst of slumping PC sales and a global recession.
A July report by Deutsche Bank suggested that the release of Windows 7 could compel businesses to engage in a widespread tech refresh, as SMBs and the enterprise upgrade to the operating system in order to more efficiently leverage virtualization and 64-bit computing.
However, those companies' lack of IT funds following months of economic contraction could also retard the rate of Windows 7 adoption; a separate survey by ScriptLogic found that many companies only plan on integrating the new operating system into their IT infrastructure by the end of 2010.
Windows 7 includes a variety of under-the-hood and aesthetic improvements over Windows Vista, Microsoft's much-maligned previous operating system. These tweaks include more streamlined memory management, expanded search capability, a redesigned Taskbar, and an increased level of granular control over the organization of files.