We already know quite a lot about Windows 7: it has a distinct Office 2007 feel to the UI, it is likely to feature some kind of instant on fast booting process, and the OS itself should scale to some 256 processors. The launch of an official 'Engineering Windows 7' blog has helped with this knowledge, as indeed has the fact that early pre-betas were given away freely at the recent Microsoft Professional Developer Conference and Windows Hardware Engineering Conference.

What we have not known, and what has kept us all guessing, is when the first actual beta copies would become available. There have been plenty of informed rumours around that point to December, but Microsoft has always maintained that January 2009 was the month that matters. Now it seems that, surprise surprise, Microsoft was right.

We are led to believe that a Windows 7 beta will go live on January 13th in fact.

How so and who is doing the leading towards this date? None other than a Microsoft employee called Keith Combs who, in his blog, drops mention that if you go to the January 13th Microsoft Developer Conference you will get a copy of the Windows 7 beta on DVD. The official Microsoft Developer Conference site is also now confirming the Windows 7 beta DVD giveaway for the 13th January, so it looks like a done deal.

Of course, that still does not answer the big question: when will non-developers be able to download the Windows 7 beta? Although Microsoft is remaining quiet on that one, once the DVD has gotten into the hands of developers it will not be long before the public download is activated.

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As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

"and the OS itself should scale to some 256 processors"

Doubt it. In theory yes, in reality no.

Every version of windows NT Server since NT4 has had a technical limit of 32 cpus, or 64 on the 64 bit version.

However, MS hardcode a limit of 2 for the cheaper versions, 4 for the standard versions, and 32 for the pricey versions like dacenter. Its a totally arbitary limit, whose only goal is to extract more money from customers

Windows Server 2008 has this limit too - microsoft customers will be very pissed off if they paid tens of thousands extra for datacenter and end up being able to support less CPUs than a desktop OS.

I doubt MS will ever actually let it support 256 CPUs, even if it is made technically possible. It will cost them far too much money.