Microsoft confirmed today that it will hand out preview copies of Windows 7 to attendees at next month's Professional Developers Conference (PDC). In a post to the PDC Web site, Microsoft said that developers would get a "pre-beta" release of Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista, on Oct. 28.
"Keynote attendees will be among the first to receive the pre-beta build of Windows 7," the company said.
Steven Sinofsky, who heads Windows development, will deliver a keynote address on Oct. 28, the second day of the conference, which opens the day before and runs through Oct. 30 in Los Angeles.
Mike Swanson, a Microsoft technology evangelist working on the PDC, said earlier this week that attendees will receive a 160GB external USB hard drive that will contain all the developer bits from the conference. The USB drive will presumably include the pre-beta version of Windows 7.
Last week, Mike Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said that he expected developers at either PDC, or the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), which is scheduled for Nov. 5-7, to receive Windows 7 code.
"When that many developers [come] together, you want them to go home with something that they can play with," Cherry said then. "Microsoft will want to do more than just tell developers about Windows 7."
Today, he was cautiously optimistic that the announcement meant Microsoft was on track with Windows 7. "If they didn't do this, you would have to wonder if they could make the schedule," Cherry said. But the fact that Microsoft's handing out an alpha doesn't necessarily mean the operating system will be done by 2009, the date most often circulated by analysts. "We now know they're making progress. They at least have something they're confident enough in to share," Cherry continued. "But the next question is, how far along is it? And we won't know that until people load it up."
Also today, Microsoft added more than a dozen Windows 7-specific sessions to the PDC agenda, including ones titled "New APIs to Find, Visualize and Organize," "Integrate with the Windows 7 Desktop Taskbar," and "Best Practices for Developing for Windows Standard User."
Sinofsky is also on the WinHEC agenda, where he's scheduled to deliver a keynote speech on Nov. 5. Microsoft, however, has not officially announced that it will deliver a Windows 7 alpha to attendees there.
Cherry fully expects the WinHEC attendees to get the same build as those at the PDC. "The people who really should be looking at the Windows 7 alpha at this point are those with the longest lead times, and that's the hardware developers," he said.
Previously, Microsoft had said that it would also seek beta testers for Windows 7. "Our current plans call for signing up for the beta to happen in the standard Microsoft manner on http://connect.microsoft.com," said Christina Storm, a Microsoft program manager, in an entry on the Engineering Windows 7 blog earlier this month.