As of May 5th, PC users will be able to download and get free access for an entire year of Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 7.

The Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) was officially released on Thursday to subscribers of the company's developer and IT services, however, the download sites for those services were offline as of noon ET.

The release indicates that only a few changes will be made to the final version of Windows 7 and that companies can begin tailoring software or hardware to the operating system, according to Microsoft.

The RC includes a couple of new features like; Remote Media Streaming, which allows you to stream stuff from your home PC to your work PC, for example, and in pro versions, Windows XP Mode. The beta version

The Windows 7 RC will be the last major pre-release milestone for Microsoft's next Windows version which is speculated to roll out either late 2009 or early 2010.

Vista, the last Operating System update from Microsoft, received a significant amount of bad reviews from users for being too complex and not being compatible with older software programs.

Windows XP holdouts are being told they will have to upgrade to Vista to make a transition to Windows 7.

Windows 7 shows significant promise, Forrester Research analyst Ben Gray wrote in a independent report. Start preparing for it now, and the best way to prepare for Windows 7 is by deploying Windows Vista. Short of that, begin testing your applications and hardware for compatibility against Windows Vista; it will pay off with greater compatibility with Windows 7.

On the Web:

Visit the official site of Microsoft Windows 7 here here.