Windows 7 is RTMed

After a week of speculation, it's finally been confirmed. Today, 7600 was signed off as the final RTM build for Windows 7.

Feature-wise, Windows 7 is a compelling evolution. It fixes a lot of the issues people had with Vista and adds in a number of great user-, it-, and developer-focused features. Things like Direct2D and GDI improvements, User Mode Scheduling, improved NUMA support, improved concurrency, SSD support, and improved power management will all work together to provide higher performance compared to previous OSes. Libraries, greater multimedia support (such as AAC and AVC), mouse gestures, Media Center, and a completely redesigned taskbar provide a greater user experience. I think this is definitely the best Windows to date -- better than XP, and better than Vista.

Testing Windows 7 was a very frustrating experience. In contrast to previous betas where we got a regular stream of beta builds to test, in Windows 7 we got only two builds, Beta 1 and the RC. A lot of us experienced our bugs being set as not reproducible in internal builds, with no way to test if that were true. Worse yet, shortly after the RC came out many of us had a lot of bug reports disappear when Microsoft told us to not report any bugs that didn't cause the OS to bluescreen or fail installing—so there may well be a large number of unfixed cosmetic and usability issues in the RTM.

Instead, Microsoft created a much smaller team of special testers called Test Pilots who, along with TAP partners, would be the ones to get intrim builds and provide the majority of the useful feedback. I'm not sure who this team was made up of, but I would guess they are testers from past betas who chose to devote most of their waking hours to testing.

This triggered something I'd never expected to see—somewhat of a revolt among testers who felt that their feedback was doing nothing. Morale went down, bug reports stopped coming in, and a lot of heated discussion happened between testers. Even the die-hard testers realized something was wrong, some of them feeling the need to mark their discussions to differentiate them as a "proud" tester.

Some believe Steve Sinofsky (who replaced Jim Allchin as the head of the Windows division) is the reason for this total restructuring of the Windows beta, but as far as I know nothing of the sort has been confirmed. Either way, with Microsoft seemingly frustrated at our performance and our frustration at not being able to test properly, it feels like we were of little use this time around despite submitting a large amount of bugs. I would not be surprised if the tech beta gets scrapped entirely for Windows 8.