Updating the Windows 7 release schedule

Updating the Windows 7 release schedule

Summary: Microsoft has been doing an admirable job of suppressing leaks about its Windows 7 release plans. But someone in Redmond needs to do a better job of teaching its own employees when not to hit the Publish button on web pages. Based on a page that was accidentally published on Microsoft's TechNet site, I've updateds my predictions on when you'll be able to buy Windows 7 PC.


Microsoft has been doing an admirable job of suppressing leaks about its Windows 7 release plans. But someone in Redmond needs to do a better job of teaching its own employees when not to hit the Publish button on web pages. As my colleague Mary Jo Foley noted this morning, Emil Protalinski at Ars Technica posted screen shots of a page at Microsoft’s Technet Plus site offering details about the Windows 7 release candidate, including a May 2009 date when it will, presumably, be available for download by the public.

I visited the page myself and can confirm it’s real, although the URL suggests it was supposed to be hidden in a staging area of the TechNet Evaluation Center and not found by outsiders.

Based on the details in this preliminary page and some additional tidbits I’ve heard from my own sources, I can make some pretty good guesses about the current plans for Windows 7 (all, of course, subject to the vagaries of bug-catching and coding):

Release Candidate escrow: Before end of April? In all previous milestone releases, Microsoft has taken a few weeks for exhaustive testing (with some tweaks to the code) before declaring a build ready for general release.

Release Candidate available to public: May? The fact that the TechNet page is written, formatted, and ready for staging suggests that the development team has a high degree of confidence in its ability to deliver in the month of May. Of course, changing May to June on an HTML page isn’t exactly rocket science, so the date could slip. But placing your bets on the middle of May seems pretty safe.

Release to OEM partners: Late July or early August? Microsoft will almost certainly give its OEM partners a crack at the code first, because they are the ones with a pressing need to qualify drivers and utilities and build packages they can install on PCs. OEMs that do offshore manufacturing need a few extra weeks of lead time to get products built in Asia and shipped to markets in the U.S., Western Europe, and elsewhere. I suspect this won’t happen until July 1 at the very earliest (and probably later in July). That’s the clear conclusion from this text on the Microsoft web page:

You don’t need to rush to get Windows 7 RC. The RC release will be available at least through June 2009 and we’re not limiting the number of product keys, so you have plenty of time.

Any date on the schedule for this milestone is going to be written in pencil, not indelible ink. Steven Sinofsky’s team has made it abundantly clear that they are not going to rush to hit an arbitrary date. I’m sure there’s a target date, but there’s still room for it to slip into August.

Release to web: August 24? One big question is when Microsoft will release the final Windows 7 bits to subscribers at MSDN and TechNet Plus. The calculus gets a little complicated, because the time between release to MSDN/TechNet and widespread availability on BitTorrent will be measured in hours. I’m betting that subscribers get a head start of a few weeks, but not much more. I’ve picked the August 24 date because it’s a magic one for Microsoft. They'd love nothing better than to see comparisons to the successful Windows 95 launch, which was also on August 24.

Retail launch: Late September? Marketing professionals will tell you: “Never launch a new product before Labor Day.” If OEMs get code in July, they can have systems ready to deliver to customers in September, maybe even with a simultaneous retail launch. The back-to-school market is not an important target given the oddities of school schedules these days (many school districts in the U.S. start in early August now, and some operate year-round). But holiday sales are crucial, and a September release allows for a full-on marketing blitz for the fourth quarter.

Almost a year ago, I picked July 29, 2009 as the date when Windows 7 would be released to manufacturing. The readers of this site picked September 30, 2009 for the launch date. Based on the current code, both predictions look pretty good.

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Are they ...

    <font color=#808080>"Microsoft has been doing an admirable job of suppressing leaks about its Windows 7 release plans. But <font color=#000000>someone in Redmond</font> needs to do a better job of teaching its own employees when not to <font color=#000000>hit the Publish button</font> on web pages."</font>

    Are they looking for the leaker? Is it an inside job? Did the leaker get fired?

    If it's an inside job then it's marketing. ;)

    It's convenient to use incompetents when it's advantageous.

    • It is funny....

      ...to see these "leaks" and then watch the blogosphere play along.
    • Occam's razor

      Never attribugte to malice what can be explained by incompetence. This was in a staging area, which is an essential part of running any big website. It wasn't published to the main site. Someone with mad search skillz stumbled across it. Stuff happens. I don't see this as marketing. Theere are better, more reliable ways to do that.
      Ed Bott
      • ....

        <font color=#808080><em>"Stuff happens."</em></font>

        True, but:
        <li>Microsoft don't seem to be perturbed by these "<a href="http://biopsy.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/sinking-ship.jpg" target="_blank">leaks</a>".

        <li>Microsoft has not released an official statement saying it <strong>won't</strong> happen again.

        <li><a href="http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12354-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=62541&messageID=1152948" target="_self">It is funny....</a>

        Ed, please correct me if I'm wrong.

      • Actually...

        ...i think that was Clausewitz.

        Occam's Razor, in its simplest form, says that the simplest explanation that adequately explains events is probably correct.

        In another way of putting it - when you hear hoofbeats, don't expect zebras.
        • Hoofbeats and zebras...

          That would highly depend on where in the world you happened to be. Wouldn't it? If you were in say, the North American plains or the Asian steppes, horses would be right on the money. But in say, Africa, it wouldn't make much sense.
  • RE: Updating the Windows 7 release schedule

    Stupid question:Will moving from beta to RC1 mean a fresh install or will we be able to do a simply update?
    • Install or Upgrade

      According to the BETA notes, the beta can not be upgraded to the retail version, so you probably can't update it to the RC version either. Then again the statement could be Microsoft heging their bets.
      • Not true

        The leaked release notes say "...if you install the RC release you'll either need to upgrade to the final version of Windows 7 before that [expiration] date, or install a prior version of Windows."

        In general, Beta to RC to RTM (from one major milestone to another) is a supported upgrade path.
        Ed Bott
        • I seem to recall...

          ...that it was said that the W7 beta couldn't be upgraded to the RC - which is why i did a clean install of Build 7057 (which is working very nicely for me, thank you - though my wife is frustrated because the Microsoft games she downloaded don't work.
  • Beckett Spins

    The spirit of "under promise, over deliver" is alive and well.
    This doesn't have to be a conspiracy theory, and it
    probably wasn't leaked. It doesn't have to be these days.
    there is quite enough hand wringing going on without

    Vista you ask? Well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with
    it. Not now anyway. Nothing except for Windows 7. When
    7 is released it will be heralded by the Windows-centric
    blogosphere as the cure to the problem that we didn't
    have, the disappointment we didn't feel, and the money
    and time we won't get back but never did spend.

    As long as Windows continues to compare itself exclusively
    to Windows, the results are usually always progressively

    As Windows moves to it's 4th generation of OS from
    NT/2000/XP/2000 to Vista/7, Apple will coast along for at
    least the next 3 years on it's third gen OS, OSX. One of
    two things are in play. Either Windows is ahead now, and
    the 4th generation was a leapfrog move, or they have been
    behind and the 4th generation is the one required to catch
    up. If the latter is true, and Windows 7 does "repair" Vista,
    and evolve beyond XP, the time lag has to be put at 8

    It's easiest now to attribute the comparison to Mac
    zealotry, and dismiss it. I expect that will happen again. If
    Apple was just the foil in this argument, it's important to
    the ongoing class war, that the notion gets lost in the din
    of name calling.

    Why does anyone need this to be a "leak" to be
    scandalous? Fussing over July vs September and providing
    distractions from a 8 year shortfall happens weekly and
    Harry Bardal
    • More opaque than ever

      I couldn't make heads nor tails of that. The part about Windows' "4th generation of OS from
      NT/2000/XP/2000 to Vista/7" was especially incomprehensible. Who knew that Windows 2000 came back sometime between 2001 and 2006 briefly?

      Anyway, I have to go read the latest leaks about Snow Leopard. Supposedly it's going to have a new skin (leaked screens!) and there may or may not be surprises at WWDC, which was just announced today. Fun times!


      Ed Bott
      • You can smell the fear from the Apple astroturfers!

        Harry is earning his paycheque. :)
      • Decoding the code...

        I think Harry meant major releases - 1.) NT 3.x, 2.) NT 4.0, 3.) 2000/XP and 4.) Vista/7...

        Give him some kudos - this was one of his more lucid posts.
    • How was Windows behind?

      In what way, exactly, is Windows XP even "behind" OS X? Better application support, check. Better hardware support, check. Better security, check. OS X has a pretty interface but that's about all it has going for it.

      Kudos though. You managed 6 paragraphs and said nothing. Good job.
      • Are you quoting from experience?

        Have you used OS X?
  • RE: Updating the Windows 7 release schedule

    I installed Ubuntu today and it truly does run better than Windows 7. I couldn't get Win 7 to run without the BSoD popping up. I install it three times. Tech support is useless. I am glad other people are having better luck than I did. I'm going to play around with Ubuntu and see how it compares to XP.
    • BSOD? Did you install it on an abacus?

      I haven't see a BSOD in so long I can't even remember when it was for sure. I do think it was in the earliest days of Win XP, but may have been Win ME.

      As far as tech support, you may have noticed before the Win7 install began it clearly says that there IS NO tech support for the Beta.

      Stick with your Ubuntu, maybe Linsux Geek will help you out when you get lost and don't have a clue what to do next. That should be sometime, in say, the next couple of hours. The Windows crowd doesn't need you around anyway.
    • ..what are you trying to run it on?

      I'm with the other guy.. I haven't seen a BSOD for as long as I care to remember. I have had nothing but good things to say about Windows 7(build 7000) and I've been using it as my primary operating system for 4 and a half solid months. I've played games, run 3D modelling software, Photoshop.. you name it, all rock solid.
      NamelessFor Now