At the Microsoft's CES keynote in Las Vegas today, a passionate Steve Ballmer announced the worldwide availability of Windows 7 beta.

The much-anticipated successor to Windows Vista will be available as a download from Microsft's official site on Friday and is not just for tech-heads to use. In fact, Ballmer enthused: "I encourage you all to download it!"

But if you are a MSDN or TechNet subscriber, you can download the beta immediately.

Home Group networking

A short demo of Windows 7 showed some of the things that you will see in the beta, including easier access to multiple windows on the OS.

Side by side window boxes are also a cinch in Windows 7 – a quick click will snap to documents side by side, with no messy lining up.

There's also a new feature called 'jump lists', where you can quickly get to favourite music tracks and the like.

Networking computers shouldn't be a problem either, with a new option called Home Group, which will network your numerous PCs, Xbox 360s and any other Windows-related products in just a few clicks.

If you are lucky enough to own a touchscreen PC, then Windows 7 is touch-enabled, so your fingers can get right down to it with the Windows 7 beta.

The actual full version of Windows 7 should be hitting shelves everywhere January 2010.

Ballmer commented in his keynote about Windows 7's R&D, saying: "We are on track to deliver the best version of Windows ever, and working hard to get it right and to get it ready."

To download, Windows 7 beta, point your browser to http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/default.aspx.

From CES 2009