Just for the sake of clarity here are some of facts on the Windows 7 “free” beta:

1)the free downloads are here and pay attention to the Redmond cautions. This is a significant amount of work and will require a large spare machine.

2)The limit is now no longer 2.5million downloads but rather the cutoff date – January 24th, 2009. My guess is that this date may change yet again.

3)In a radical departure, Microsoft is allowing benchmark results to be posted on its beta.

Now of all the things about the Windows 7 public beta, the move to allow benchmarking is the most telling. It is an acknowledgement by Redmond that not just ease of use versus Apple but also performance (both speed of operation and memory/disk resources required) are now on the table in measuring the success of Windows versus MacOS.

Now this party has been absolutely caustic towards both Apple and the Linux communities for absolutely squandering the competitive opportunity Microsoft has handed to them on a platter with the god-awful compatibility, ease of use, cost, and performance issues associated with Vista. Windows 7 and the free beta mark the concerted effort of Microsoft to close down that opportunity “window”. The talk is that by mid-summer 2009 not only will  Windows 7  be available for sale but also there will be significant “bundling”  despite the DOJ under Obama as a legal gauntlet.

So Microsoft will not only say Windows 7 is better regardless of whether it can match Windows XP but also will require that you use Windows Server 2009, Office 2009, and Silverlight 3 in order to get access to most of the new features of these “tied products”. It will be a test for the Obama DOJ-Antitrust division whether in bad economic times it wants to take on the Microsoft Monopoly Bullies.

However, the broader point is that with Netbooks, Cloud Computing,  smartphones, the Obama Blackberry and more “instant on devices” – the IT industry  and the “still waiting for real info at your fingertips” public may have already moved on to other solutions and in a paradigm shifting ways. In effect only developers will be using PCs.