I've gotten lots of questions from Windows users this week about TG Daily's story that Microsoft is running early with Windows 7 and has delivered an early build to unnamed parties outside of the company.
Here's what I know and don't.
First off, Microsoft officially is refusing to say anything at all about Windows 7. They aren't confirming, aren't denying. They just aren't talking about it. Period. They want to talk about Windows Vista and -- to a much lesser extent -- Vista Service Pack (SP) 1. (And they definitely don't want to talk about "Shipping Seven," the blog from someone allegedly working on the Windows 7 team.)
On Channel 9, I saw one Microsoft employee insist that Windows 7 is still in the planning phase -- implying that it's only slideware at this point. But being in planning doesn't mean that early builds do not exist. In fact, I have heard a number of Microsoft folks have Windows 7 running on their systems. Is this the alleged M1 (Milestone 1) build mentioned in TG Daily's story? I don't know.
I have not (yet) found folks outside of Microsoft who claim to have a build of Windows 7. Does this mean such a build doesn't exist? No. Top OEMs tend to see pretty early builds of new versions of Windows, so if a Windows 7 build is available, I bet some PC makers have seen it.
Could Windows 7 ship before Microsoft's publicly stated date of 2010? Definitely. In fact, I will almost be surprised if it doesn't, with the new Windows motto of under-promise and over-deliver.
When we first heard Microsoft was telling its salesforce that Windows 7 was going to be a 2010 deliverable, I figured the new Windows engineering regime had built some padding into that timeline so as not to face another Vista slip-date scenario. Plus, what better way to convince customers on the fence about upgrading to Vista or waiting for the next Windows build that they should make the move? ("Do you really want to wait at least three more years?")
(And remember, before we heard the 2010 date, the Windows team had said publicly that it was on an every two-year release schedule. Microsoft shipped Vista in 2007. TG Daily says the new target is second half of 2009. If Microsoft is targeting holiday 2009, it would have to release to manufacturing Windows 7 in the late summer/early fall, in order for PC makers to get it preloaded on new PCs in time.)
Windows 7 is unlikely to include major architectural changes, Microsoft officials have said, making it even more likely to ship sooner rather than later.
What's your bet? Will Windows 7 hit in 2009? And if it does, will that impact your Vista upgrade plans (either positively or negatively)?