If you were eager to beat the lines for the preview edition of Windows 7, you’ll be happy to know that thanks to eager beavers of the downloading kind, Windows 7 is now available to anyone with Internet Explorer.

Apparently Microsoft’s first attempt to release preview versions to the first 2.5 million developers didn’t go smoothly, so the company decided to make it available to everyone through January 24th.

Windows 7 is known to be the streamlined version of Windows Vista. For once, it’s the nuts and bolts version of its industry leading desktop operating system capable of running on most computers without an upgrade. The tradeoff to this streamlined version is a lot of functions and applications you probably barely ever used anyway.

Don’t bother trying to download with Firefox, Safari or Chrome, of course. The download requires an Akamai ActiveX control. From there, you’ll have to burn the downloaded .iso file to a DVD. There are several free applications to do this using a Google search.

It took me the greater part of the day, but Windows 7 is now running on my Mac using VMWare. The good news is that it is blazing fast and the permissions dialogs were kept at a minimum.

The icons are big, the start button is where you’d expect it. Like Vista, the Computer icon is missing by default, but you can get it back through system settings. In general, it took me less than 5 minutes to start-up, launch Internet Explorer 8, bypass all the setup features and download Google Chrome. Launching a web browser is 80% of what I use an Operating System for these days, so I’d call that a huge success.

Now the big question is whether it is competitive with Windows XP and whether Windows 7, with its Internet Explorer 8, is (finally) the version that will allow us all to finally ditch Internet Explorer 6 support once and for all. I’m leaning towards it being better for doing its thing well: launching applications safely, reliably and without hassle.

Head over to Microsoft’s Windows 7 beta site to grab yourself your own key and leave your comments below.