The beta version of Windows 7, Microsoft's next-generation PC operating system, can be downloaded today by MSDN, TechBeta and TechNet customers. Consumers who want to test-drive the beta will be able to download it beginning Jan. 9 at http://www.microsoft.com/windows7.
Microsoft also announced the global availability of Windows Live, a free suite of communications and sharing applications. Windows Live makes it easy for people to communicate, share and keep their online lives in sync and in one place with one login. The new and enhanced Windows Live services - including Windows Live Messenger - along with Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Photo Gallery. Ballmer also announced new alliances with the following companies: Dell, facebook and Verizon Wireless.
In February Dell will offer preloaded Windows Live Essentials (a free suite of applications for instant messaging, e-mail and photos that complement Windows Live on the Web) and Live Search on a majority of its new consumer and small-business PCs globally.
In the coming months, Facebook users can choose to share content they post on Facebook, including photos, directly into Windows Live.
Under a new five-year relationship that covers mobile search and advertising, Verizon subscribers in the U.S. will be able to use Live Search to search for local business and shopping information; access maps and directions; perform general Internet searches; and find ring tones, games, wallpaper and other online mobile products and services.
Microsoft demonstrated new features and key improvement in Windows 7. Windows 7 is designed to do the following:
- Work the way consumers want. With Windows 7, Microsoft paid special attention to performance, reliability, security, compatibility and battery life.
- Make everyday tasks faster and easier. The more streamlined design of Windows 7 is intended to simplify the things people do every day on their PCs. Desktop improvements make using the PC easier and provide immediate access to the applications and files people use most often through features such as Jumplists, Previews and the new Taskbar. The new Home Group feature makes it easier for consumers to connect multiple home PCs together to share printers and access files, music, photos and videos. Device Stage makes connecting and working with devices easier than ever with a single interface to manage devices and run common tasks. New multitouch technology in Windows 7 will enable people with touch-screen monitors to use multiple fingers to interact with their PC screens in a more intuitive way.
- Offer a better entertainment experience. Consumers today have access to more digital media and are increasingly using the PC as the hub of their electronic experiences. The "Play-to" feature in Windows 7 allows easier streaming of music, video and photos to devices in a home network. Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center in Windows 7 have built-in support for more media formats so people can use their PC to play more media content and sync it to a broader range of devices. As an alternative to monthly digital video recording (DVR) fees, Windows Media Center, available in some editions of Windows 7, with a TV tuner and improved user interface, makes recording TV free and easy.
Entertainment That Extends Across Devices; New Xbox Experiences Previewed
Microsoft's president of the Entertainment & Devices Division, Robbie Bach, shared the stage at CES with Ballmer. Bach addressed Microsoft?s ability to deliver entertainment on virtually any screen that consumers commonly use today, including the PC, TV and mobile phone.
Despite a tough holiday and economy, Xbox 360 registered its biggest year ever, driven by record sales at retail with 28 million consoles sold to date, an 84 percent jump in online consumer spending, and Xbox LIVE membership that has grown to 17 million active members.
"Not only is Xbox 360 one of the world-s leading next-generation gaming consoles, but with partners like Netflix, it is one of the world's leading entertainment devices, period," Bach said. "With 28 million consoles sold worldwide, an active online community of 17 million members, and more than $1 billion spent on Xbox LIVE since the launch of the Xbox 360, it's clear that consumer demand for these great entertainment experiences has never been higher. We're only beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible with Xbox."
Bach shared how consumer demand for connected TV experiences is growing and announced the Mediaroom platform has reached nearly 2.5 million subscriber homes worldwide, an increase of more than 1.5 million new connections in the past year alone. The Microsoft Mediaroom is driving the future of television by enabling broadband service providers to deliver new connected TV and entertainment experiences to consumers around the world. Bach also unveiled a feature called Mediaroom Anytime that lets subscribers access previously aired shows directly from the Interactive Program Guide without any pre-planning or prior DVR recording.
Bach discussed how Microsoft is making it easier than ever for people to synch their entertainment content across the screens in their lives. This month, Microsoft and Netflix will offer software that enables Windows Mobile customers to update and view their Netflix movie queue. Changes will appear instantly on Netflix on Xbox LIVE, extending the existing service that launched in November.
This spring, Microsoft will introduce a new interactive entertainment genre with the premiere of the Xbox LIVE Primetime channel, which brings together the best of TV and gaming. Xbox LIVE Primetime will debut with an online version of the popular TV show "1 vs. 100" that enables thousands of gamers to play together with real hosts and compete for real prizes.
In addition, Bach talked about the outpouring of creativity from the Xbox community since the announcement of Community Games in November, with over 100 new games available for anyone to play. He highlighted an upcoming Xbox LIVE Community Game called "Kodu," launching in the spring, designed to help anyone from age 7 to 70 create their own video games.