Over the past couple of days, I've noticed more new speculation about Microsoft's timetable for delivering Windows 7, the next version of Windows.
Now, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' words are being parsed for hidden meanings. According to my News.com colleague Ina Fried, Gates said this week during a speech before the Inter-American Development Bank: "Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new (Windows) version."
Microsoft officials are insisting nothing has changed: Windows 7 is due out roughly three years after Windows Vista's consumer launch (which was January 2007), meaning in early 2010.
As I have mentioned before, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Softies actually deliver the final Windows 7 code in late 2009, given the current Windows Client team's emphasis on underpromising and overdelivering -- not to mention the self-imposed rule among the Windows folks that they should deliver a new Windows release every two years, alternating between "major" and "minor" updates. And given the fact that pushing out a new Windows release early in a new calendar year is not optimal for PC makers, who need final Windows code from Microsoft by late summer/early fall in order to preload a new operating system on holiday PCs, an early 2010 RTM date also seems wonky.
Remember, however, Microsoft still has yet to release a wide-scale test build of Windows 7. Milestone 1 of Windows 7 went to a limited set of testers in December 2007. I've heard mentions of Milestone 3 from a couple of folks recently. Windows client milestones are primarily internal builds that also go to a hand of OEM partners.
Beta 1 of Windows 7, last I heard from rogue tipsters, might hit in late fall at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference. Typically, it takes Microsoft a minimum of a year to beta test a Windows client build. So, if Microsoft sticks to its usual way of operating, it's currently looking a very late 2009 delivery for Windows 7 at best.
Why do these nuances matter? It is in Microsoft's best interests right now, one could argue, to insure customers they shouldn't wait for Windows 7 and should go ahead and deploy Vista. If Windows 7 were to hit in mid-2009, a number of users (especially corporate ones) would likely just wait for the next Windows release, hoping that the driver and application incompatibilities that plagued Vista might get ironed out and that changes that might introduce new problems would be kept to a minimum.
Would you like to see another new version of Windows client in 2009?