Thereâ€™s talk that Microsoft has signed off internally on the Beta 1 Windows 7 bits. Word is the build number of what goes out to testers will be 6.1.7000.0.081212-1400.
What do all those digits mean? And when will testers actually get their hands on the code?
Windows power users and long-time beta testers probably need no explanation, but the rest of us undoubtedly could stand some schooling. Hereâ€™s how it works:
- 6 = Major NT OS version number (Windows 7, as the Softies have said, is built on the Windows Vista kernel, which they call NT Version 6)
- 1 = Minor version number
- 7000 = Major build number
- 0 = Minor build number (if needed; otherwise omitted on most builds)
- 081212-1400 = Build date stamp (08 = year, 12 = month, 12 = day, 1400= 2 p.m. using a 24-hour- format time stamp)
Once a release of Windows is released to manufacturing, the major build number is only changed when service packs are introduced. Example: VistaSP2/2008SP2 is build 6002. (The RTM build of Vista was No. 6000.16386.061101.2205, for those keeping track at home.)
So if Beta 1 really is 6.1.7000.0.081212-1400, it would mean it was built on December 12 at 2 p.m. (For the record, Microsoft officials still wonâ€™t talk build numbers and wonâ€™t say whether this is actually Beta 1 or if some later build will be officially christened Beta 1.)
Build numbers aside, when will testers get their hand on the Beta 1 bits? Thatâ€™s a bit tenuous, too.
A Russian Web site posted earlier this week that testers would get the Beta 1 bits before the end of this week. But in the Beta 1 invite Microsoft sent to testers, company officials told the pre-selected group of â€œtech beta testersâ€ not to expect to get Beta 1 code until early 2009.
I asked Microsoft for clarification on December 17, and was told by a spokesperson that testers wonâ€™t get the code until January.
Update: I asked again on December 18, just for the heck of it and got a slightly different statement from a spokesperson â€” a statement that leaves open the door for early beta deliveries:
â€œIt is part of our normal testing process for testers to receive regular builds; however, the Windows 7 public beta is still expected in early 2009.â€
Hereâ€™s my guess: I bet some fairly small group of testers will, indeed, get the Beta 1 bits by this weekend. But in order to keep the Windows team from being saddled with support and answering questions over the holidays, the majority of tech beta testers wonâ€™t get the code until early January. The public wonâ€™t get Beta 1 until some time after the tech beta testers give Beta 1 their overall stamp of approval â€” think later in January (with some kind of official Microsoft announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show).
One thingâ€™s for sure: If early code recipients put the Beta 1 bits on torrents in the next few days, Beta 1 will be available all over the Web before the start of 2009. Maybe that initial internal Microsoft pre-Christmas Beta 1 target wonâ€™t be so far off, after allâ€¦.