Microsoft’s mighty servers were overwhelmed on Friday as computer users worldwide rushed to download a free test version of a Windows 7 operating system being groomed to succeed Vista.
A virtual line formed on the Internet in the hours before the planned release of Windows 7 “beta” software at 12pm local time in Microsoft’s headquarters in Washington State.
“There was a line of people waiting online, so the noon release became an about-noon release,” a Microsoft spokesman said while showing off the company’s latest innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
A flood of requests slowed Microsoft industrial-strength computers, causing delays and disappointments.
The window for downloading the test-version of Windows 7 closes the last day of this month, Microsoft said.
The software giant wants feedback from users to refine the new operating system, but doesn’t plan to change or add features.
“We got ourselves in a little trouble with Windows Vista; it became a bag of mixed things and didn’t really figure out what it was about,” said Mike Ybarra, general manager of Windows products at Microsoft.
“There was a lot of feature creep. You had people saying ‘Let’s change this and that.’ Windows 7 has been very disciplined,” Ybarra said.
Analyst Michael Cherry of private firm Directions On Microsoft said he was impressed with the way the software giant “kept its enthusiasm under control.”
Microsoft improved the Vista operating system while making sure it was “backward compatible,” essentially that it would work with older software.
Vista was such an advance over Windows XP that it clashed with software people already used and previous generation computers.
“Microsoft is making the kind of evolutionary changes they need without the revolutionary changes that break things,” Cherry said.
Microsoft has been secretive about when a finished version of Windows 7 would be ready.
Cherry said he believed the goal was to get it to market in time to be pre-installed on new computers sold during the prime US back-to-school and year-end holiday shopping seasons this year.
Windows 7 streamlines everyday tasks, cut boot-up times, extend battery life and make it simple to weave “smart” devices into home networks, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said.
Windows 7 also lets users customize a “ribbon” panel at the base of a computer screen with icons for programs and files they want to quickly access.
A ghost preview of what is in the application or file appears as cursors move across ribbon icons, and “jump lists” pop up offering links to exact spots people want to reach in computers or on the Internet.
“The concept is to give people single click access to applications they use most often and two-click access to files,” Ybarra said while demonstrating Windows 7 in a CES meeting room. “You don’t have to launch a browser and navigate to a Web site. You can just click on an icon.”
Dragging a cursor to a bottom corner of a desktop makes all open windows transparent so computer users can easily get to what they want underneath without having to close or minimize screens.
A Home Group feature simplifies networking home computers, so family members using different machines in a house can share things like printers and music or video files.
Device Stage in Windows 7 automatically fetches and presents support and set-up information for mobile telephones, MP3 players, digital cameras or other gadgets plugged into computers.