Microsoft has announced that the Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) will be available April 30th for download by MSDN and TechNet subscribers and public availability beginning on May 5th.
For those wanting it faster, it has apparently leaked onto various torrent trackers already.
Also today, Microsoft unveiled details of Windows XP Mode, a virtual Windows XP environment running under Windows Virtual PC. Applications can be installed directly to the virtual Windows XP environment and will be runnable directly from the Windows 7 desktop little native Windows 7 applications.
About Windows 7 Windows XP Mode
A Windows SuperSite story about the Windows XP Mode notes the following details:
XPM is built on the next generation Microsoft Virtual PC 7 product line, which requires processor-based virtualization support (Intel and AMD) to be present and enabled on the underlying PC XP Mode consists of the Virtual PC-based virtual environment and a fully licensed copy of Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3). It will be made available, for free, to users of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions via a download from the Microsoft web site. (That is, it will not be included in the box with Windows 7, but is considered an out-of-band update, like Windows Live Essentials.) XPM works much like today’s Virtual PC products, but with one important exception: As with the enterprise-based MED-V (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization) product, XPM does not require you to run the virtual environment as a separate Windows desktop. Instead, as you install applications inside the virtual XP environment, they are published to the host (Windows 7) OS as well. (With shortcuts placed in the Start Menu.) That way, users can run Windows XP-based applications (like IE 6) alongside Windows 7 applications under a single desktop.
This is a very important move, many companies are unable to use Windows Vista and would be unable to use Windows 7 because they need to support a Windows XP application that would fail to run under these newer environment. Using Virtual PC or Virtual Server does is difficult for end users as it is not seamless on the desktop and requires a Windows XP license. Windows XP Mode would solve both issues. Expect Microsoft to strip out much of Windows’ backward compatibility support in future versions in favour of making Windows XP mode an standard part of a Windows install.