CNET’s Ina Fried raised a bit of a ruckus earlier this week when she interviewed Microsoft Executive Bill Veghte and published this cautionary note:
[T]op Windows executive Bill Veghte said the company is telling PC makers that Windows 7 might or might not be ready in time for this year's holiday season.
"I'm telling them that it could go either way," Veghte told CNET News in an interview Wednesday. "We will ship it when the quality is right, and earlier is always better, but not at the cost of ecosystem support and not at the cost of quality.
My ZDNet colleague Sam Diaz, a self-confessed “hardcore Mac guy,” says that’s reason enough to skip the Windows 7 beta:
Windows 7 Beta will expire on Aug. 1, 2009. Huh? Expire? So everything just resorts back to the older crappy version of Windows?
[I]t’s hard to get excited about something that potentially won’t even arrive until 2010. (Really. The company is already talking about delays and the beta hasn’t even been released yet.)
Pardon me for a second while I stop laughing. Actually, this might take a minute or two. [Wiping eyes, catching breath.] There, I think I’m better now.
Of course Microsoft’s executives are making pro forma public statements about how beta testers will determine whether the beta is of sufficient quality and blah blah blah. That’s what they have to say, because it would be just a little presumptuous to say, “We think the beta is absolutely awesome and you testers won’t find anything and we have a ship schedule already set.”
But here’s the reality: Windows 7 will ship before August 1. It says so right on the release notes page for the beta:
When the Beta expires on August 1, 2009, you’ll need to reinstall a released version of Windows to keep using your computer.
Yes, that could be referring to Windows Vista or XP, but I don't think so. In fact, you can narrow the release date even further by looking at the leaked details of the Windows 7 Upgrade Program, which is reportedly due to kick off on July 1. (The always-reliable Gregg Keizer has a concise explanation of the program and its details, with some historic subtext.) For Windows Vista, Microsoft's James O'Neill notes that the free upgrade program started on October 24th, less than two weeks before the RTM date.
After July 1, before August 1... That pretty much pegs the general availability date as being sometime in July 2009, which squares neatly with everything I’m being told from sources within Microsoft.
Oh, and don’t worry too much about that August 1 expiration date. You’ll be able to replace the beta code with an official release candidate, probably in about three months. Like every preceding Windows pre-release version, it will have an expiration date approximately six months after its release, which means Microsoft and its beta testers will have a little bit of wiggle room even if the ship date slips.