Microsoft has launched its Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Ecosystem Readiness Program, featuring tools and resources to test existing applications, devices, and systems to ensure compatibility with the new OS.

Geared to hardware vendors, equipment manufacturers, developers and software vendors, the programme offers access to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 beta builds, development and test toolkits, technical documents and application testing labs via Microsoft Connect. Lab access will be available for in-person access as well as online and via Microsoft Live Meeting sessions.

The two operating systems also can be accessed via virtual servers for remote testing.

"We're really focused on making sure the ecosystem has access" to information, tools and software, said Jeff Price, senior director in the Windows group at Microsoft.

In preparation for Windows 7, Microsoft has decided to approach partners early and plan with them in a more systematic way, said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows Product Management at Microsoft, in an interview published on the company's PressPass website.

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"When we've discussed new versions of Windows in the past, we typically shared ideas as if they were final. Sometimes, things would shift, which could make it difficult for partners to plan when they should begin developing products," Nash said. Microsoft has been watching how partners use and develop for Windows and get input, Nash said.

API-complete beta versions of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 were released last month.

For developers, Windows 7 will offer a platform with tools for increased application compatibility, improved performance and sophisticated document support, Microsoft said. Windows 7 also offers a connectivity platform for service-enabled devices, such as mobile phones and portable media players, the company said. Windows 7 is due next January, which would be three years after the release of Windows Vista.

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Windows Server 2008 R2 provides a platform for applications directly on the OS using .Net Framework and web-based applications and websites running on Internet Information Services. Other highlights of the R2 release include LiveMigration with Hyper-V, for migrating a virtual machine between servers; Windows PowerShell 2.0; multi-core and many-core processor support; and new NUMA support. Also featured are Web services APIs and .Net and ASP.Net on Server Core, Microsoft said.

Microsoft offered no estimated release date for Windows Server 2008 R2.

For deploying Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 together, Microsoft is offering BranchCache, for better branch office connectivity via caching, and Direct Access, for connecting mobile clients to a corporate network without the need for a virtual private network.

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