LAS VEGAS – Microsoft on Wednesday released the beta version of Windows 7 to developers, and will make it publicly available on Friday, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said during a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show.

"I encourage you all to get out and download it," Ballmer said.

The software giant also highlighted two additions to its Halo gaming lineup, including a strategy game that will be available next month.

Meanwhile, Ballmer announced the worldwide availability of Windows Live Essentials, a partnership with Facebook that will link Facebook activity with Windows Live, and a deal with Dell to pre-install Windows Live on all consumer and small business PCs.

"We're on track to deliver the best version of Windows ever," Ballmer said of Windows 7. "We're putting in all the rich ingredients – simplicity and speed – and working hard to get it right and get it ready." (full Story)

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