Windows 7 beta: Should you try it?

Microsoft is busily promoting Windows 7, its next operating system and successor to the much-maligned Vista.

Microsoft is busily promoting Windows 7, its next operating system and successor to the much-maligned Vista.

At the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has announced a free public beta of the new OS, which reportedly will be less of a resource hog than Vista and may even run well on netbooks. The Windows 7 public beta is reportedly "feature complete" and will expire on Aug. 1, 2009.

Microsoft says Windows 7 is a leaner, stripped-down OS that will require as little as 1GB of memory. Then again, it's fair to be skeptical here. Vista has the same memory requirement but runs sluggishly on systems with 1GB of RAM.

But there's more to Windows 7 that faster performance, Microsoft says. There are plenty of under-the-hood changes, including a revamped Vista kernel and a less-annoying User Account Control that you can configure to post fewer security warnings. The Windows interface will undergo some changes as well.

Windows 7 may even bring a slight shift away from the traditional, desktop-oriented operating system to one that incorporates elements of Microsoft's upcoming Azure "cloud" OS.

Whatever Windows 7 brings, XP fans may remain stubbornly loyal to their OS. Dell continues to offer XP to its customers, albeit for a surcharge, and user interest in switching from Vista to XP remains high.

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Jeff Bertolucci

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