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Windows 7: Get it before something else goes wrong

Trying to atone for its failed betapalooza, Microsoft is offering a full Windows 7 beta download for the next two weeks

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has shot itself so many times in the foot you have to wonder how it manages to walk at all.

The latest example: Last Friday’s Windows 7 beta-palooza, which turned to mud when Microsoft’s download servers couldn’t handle the demand and shut down after a few hours.

The idea was that the first 2.5 million users who signed on would receive a free full-featured beta of Win7; anyone who downloaded it after that would get a version that worked for 30 days then locked up until you fed it a registration key. (Which you probably wouldn’t get.)

Why stop arbitrarily at 2.5 million? Why create a false rush on your bandwidth when there’s no logical reason to do so? Those are the questions somebody at Microsoft had to answer in what was probably a less-than-genteel conversation with Steve “The Mad” Ballmer. One can only imagine the volume and velocity of furniture being thrown.

To make good for its gaffes, Microsoft is offering Win7 beta to anyone who asks over the next two weeks. You can try for yourself here. The same 30-day-use rule will apply to folks who download copies after January 24, though as Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer notes:

People who grab the beta after Microsoft stops delivering keys can install the operating system, then run it under Microsoft’s usual 30-day trial policy. By using the same “slmgr-rearm” command that gained notoriety after Windows Vista‘s debut, they can extend that trial period to a total of 120 days.

The good news for MSFT: It’s clear users did not get their appetite for Windows permanently soured by the bad taste Vista left in their mouths. That, or they’re really desperate to upgrade from XP but not desperate enough to use Vista.

PC World’s Robert Strohmeyer gives the beta a guarded thumbs-up, though he generously ignores the performance problems and “minor functionality glitches” he encountered in the hope that they’ll disappear by the time Win 7 ships. (I wouldn’t bet actual currency on that.)

From all accounts, Win 7 is really just Vista with some welcome tweaks. I’m getting a strong deja vu back to the days when Windows 3.1 succeeded Win 3.0. Maybe now that hardware and software vendors have finally started to support Vista in real numbers, and the average PC specs are much better than they were when Vista debuted, Win 7 nee Vista might finally be a viable system for everyone and not just the lucky few.

But this is Microsoft we’re talking about. They’re almost certain to screw this up. It’s the Redmond way.

Got Windows 7 yet or plan to get it? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

InfoWorld