Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system offers three new timewasters for bored cube dwellers, bumped airline passengers, or people who just like games.
Windows 7 screen shot
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Included in the OS, which is expected to be available in final form later this year or early next, are new Internet-based versions of backgammon, checkers, and the card game spades.
"The new versions of these games have been completely redesigned and improved over their old-school predecessors," wrote Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft's in-house Windows blogger, in a recent post. "Tired of Minesweeper? Definitely give these games a try and join the thousands of other players online who are playing too."
The games can be played solo or with other players over an Internet connection. If a live opponent drops out, the games' AI routine will automatically take over. All the games feature three skill levels.
Windows 7 appears to be nearing completion.
Microsoft plans to launch an upgrade program beginning in June that will allow consumers who purchase a Vista PC to upgrade to Windows 7 for free when the new operating system becomes available, according to company documents obtained by a popular tech blog.
Under the program rules, consumers who purchase Vista-based computers from June 28 onward will be eligible for the upgrade, according to documents posted this week on Tech Arp. Vista Home Professional users will have the option to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Professional, Vista Business users will be able to migrate to Windows 7 Professional, and Vista Ultimate users will be able to move to Windows 7 Ultimate.
All upgrades must be complete by April 2010, according to the blog. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment.
Microsoft needs Windows 7 to be a hit. Vista, the company's current OS, has failed to catch on with mainstream computer users, while businesses have shunned it outright. Many users have complained about Vista's hardware requirements, intrusive security measures, and lack of compatibility with older applications.
Dissatisfaction with Vista has allowed Apple to gain share against Microsoft in the computer operating system market in recent months. Windows' market share in November fell below 90% for the first time in years, while Mac OS is now flirting with the 10% mark, according to market watcher Net Applications.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).