Interesting news out of Microsoft today:

Microsoft Equips Partners for Continued Innovation, Business Growth With Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Readiness Program

Q&A: Mike Nash, corporate vice president, Windows Product Management, discusses how the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Ecosystem Readiness Program will give partners a clear picture for the future.

Windows is the choice of more than 1 billion customers worldwide. Its broad appeal is based on Microsoft Corp.’s efforts to make Windows a platform of innovation for thousands of software developers, device manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers, and others who form the Microsoft Windows partner community.

These partners are a key ingredient to the success of Windows innovation ultimately delivering new possibilities and choice for customers.

Today Microsoft unveiled the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Ecosystem Readiness Program designed to help Independent Hardware Vendors (IHVs), Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), developers, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and Original Device Manufacturers (ODMs) achieve compatibility and innovation with Windows 7.

The program provides partners with access to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 beta builds, development and test toolkits, technical documents and application testing labs through Microsoft Connect. Software partners can join by going to: www.msdn.com/windows.

Meanwhile hardware partners can go to the Windows Hardware Developer Central (WHDC) site to access the program: http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/win7/default.mspx.

PressPass spoke with Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows Product Management, to learn about the opportunities for partners and what they can do to prepare for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Some key quotes...

We changed our approach to Windows 7, engaging with our partners early and planning with them in a more systematic way ... We followed this momentum by delivering a solid and stable beta version at International CES earlier this month. What this means for partners is that they can confidently invest and start testing now because the Windows 7 beta will have the same API set that they will see in the final release.

Many of the investments we made for Windows 7 started with the development of Windows Vista, which contained a number of architectural changes that made it more secure than Windows XP. As most people know, these investments posed challenges as we changed some of the interfaces that applications and devices used to interact with Windows XP, which resulted in early compatibility issues with Windows Vista. The good news is that the great work by our partners has resulted in significant improvements in compatibility of applications and devices on Windows Vista. Additionally, the reliability and security investments we made in Windows Vista will be retained in Windows 7, which means most applications that run on Windows Vista should run on Windows 7. That said, as we continue to progress toward the release candidate and final version of Windows 7, we want our partners to test their Windows Vista-based products to ensure they run well on Windows 7.

Perhaps the most important benefit is access to the new beta builds of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.