Microsoft plans for the first Windows 7 Beta include a public release around mid-January after the official presentation and announcement from Steve Ballmer at CES.

In-the-know journalists like Paul Thurrott have already got a copy of Beta 1, however, and he's been quick to post a screenshot gallery showing from installation to initial usage how the OS is shaping up. As he points out, the Beta 1 (build 7000) looks almost exactly the same as other late builds though it's received some tweaks and optimizations for stability and day-to-day use.

Neowin adds that the Beta 1 has also leaked, at least the 32-bit version, which is becoming widely available on torrent sites as I write this.