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Windows 7 on Track for Q3 to early Q4 RTM

Operating Systems: Release Candidate arrives in plenty of time for the new OS to be generally available in Fall 2009.

The next version of Microsoft's Windows client, Windows 7, is on track for release to manufacturing late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2009.

Microsoft made the release candidate (RC) of Windows 7 available to the general public on May 5. In an e-mail from the U.S. Partner Team on April 30, Microsoft told partners, "The final engineering milestone is the release to manufacturing (RTM), typically 3 to 5 months after the RC. We believe the product is high quality and to date have received very positive feedback. This might result in RTM delivery before the three to five months time frame."

Extrapolating from the May 5 release puts the RTM between Aug. 5 and Oct. 5. After holding out the possibility of a slightly earlier release than Aug. 5, Microsoft added the usual caveat: "Ultimately, you'll decide the quality and assess the delivery once you download and use the RC. Customer and partner feedback will determine how quickly we release."

Assuming all goes well, PC makers could be shipping systems with the new OS by early fall, at the tail end of the back-to-school season but in plenty of time for holiday sales.

The download for the RC, which can take a few hours, will be available through July 2009. Windows 7 RC expires on June 1, 2010, with the OS shutting down every two hours starting on March 1, 2010.

Different from Beta
Unlike the beta release of Windows 7, Microsoft isn't limiting the number of product keys for the RC. An RC of Windows Server 2008 R2 was also available for download by the general public.

The Windows 7 RC is Build 7100, Ultimate edition, and represents the final test version of Microsoft's newest operating system. Developers also got access to a new software development kit for Windows 7 at the same time.

For IT pros and partners assessing infrastructure readiness for Windows 7, the company posted an upgraded beta of the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 4.0, which now includes support for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V. The hardware requirements for Windows 7 RC are similar to those of Windows Vista.

The Windows 7 RC is currently available as 32-bit or 64-bit versions in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.

Those using the Windows 7 beta (Build 7000) will face an OS that will expire on Aug. 1, 2009. However, the OS will begin shutting down every two hours starting on July 1, 2009. Microsoft says that Windows will notify users two weeks before the shutdowns begin.

Meanwhile, Microsoft doesn't seem to have come to a decision, or at least a public decision, about whether Windows Vista will be available after Windows 7 ships. Given that Windows 7 is widely viewed as a minor update of Windows Vista, that the new OS has enjoyed a positive reception and that Vista's reputation is poor, it's likely there won't be much demand for Vista once Windows 7 hits the shelves.

Scott Bekker contributed to this report.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.