Yes, you read it right, Microsoft will serve free copies of the high-end SKU of Windows 7 RTM Build 7600.16385
to a limited audience. According to the Redmond company, the members of the Windows 7 Technical Beta program will be receiving a consistent “Thank you” for their contributions to building the latest iteration of Windows with a free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate RTM. A full retail license of Windows 7 Ultimate costs $319.99, while an upgrade copy of the platform comes with a price tag of $219.99. Either way, this is good news for Windows 7 Technical Beta Program testers.
“To show our appreciation, members of the invitation-only Windows 7 Technical Beta Program will be eligible for a free, final copy of Windows 7 Ultimate. For more information on how to take advantage of this, refer to Paul’s post in the .Beta_Program newsgroup for details,” revealed Brandon LeBlanc, Windows Communications manager on the Windows Client Communications Team.
One day before Windows 7 was officially released to manufacturing, Microsoft announced that testers of the operating system were first in line to receive a “special thank you” but not much else. This week, the company had nothing short of a change of heart. Still, some of you might still remember this. Microsoft pulled a similar stunt with Windows Vista, first noting that no free copies would be delivered to testers, and subsequently awarding the RTM bits to those who contributed with their feedback to building the platform.
Here is what LeBlanc stated on July 21st, 2009: “Beta testers will not automatically receive a free copy of Windows 7. Many beta testers are already subscribers to TechNet; those of you who fit that description will be able to download Windows 7 RTM shortly after RTM happens for free as part of your subscription. However, if you don’t have TechNet and are waiting for GA (to either purchase Windows 7 or wait for your pre-order to arrive) you can continue to use the RC. In fact, you can continue to use it until it expires on June 1st, 2010 (expiration actually starts March 1, 2010, this is when the reboots start).”
In Microsoft's vision, the special thank you dedicated to the Windows 7 beta testers was the special pre-order offerings focused on Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional. The software giant delivered discounts of approximately 50% for the two Windows 7 SKUs.