Cast your vote in the Windows 7 release date prediction pool

When will Windows 7 be ready for release? The current conventional wisdom says 2010, but I say that’s wrong. In this post, I explain why Microsoft has to release Windows 7 befoire the end of 2009, and why I think they can do it. And just to make things interesting, I’ll kick off the unofficial Windows 7 Release Date Prediction Pool with my prediction. Think you know more than me? Leave your best guess in the Talkback section.

Update 16-May-2008: I've tallied the entries so far. What's the consensus? See my follow-up post: Windows 7 ship date? The crowd has spoken…

When will Windows 7 be ready for release? The tech blogosphere seems to have interpreted Microsoft's latest carefully parsed announcement as pointing to a January 2010 release. But I agree with my colleague Mary Jo Foley that a 2010 date doesn't make much sense. And I don't need any inside information to make that prediction. All it takes is some common sense. In this post, I'll give you the lay of the Windows 7 landscape, and just to make things interesting, I'll kick off the unofficial Windows 7 Release Date Prediction Pool with my prediction. Think you know more than me? Leave your best guess in the Talkback section. (Rules at the end of this post.)

I think Windows 7 will arrive long before the end of 2009. My reasoning is based on these four pillars:

Vista's brand value is near zero. From a branding perspective, the Windows Vista name is practically toxic. Although the Vista experience has improved tremendously in the past year, the damage is already done, and the best solution is to get its replacement ready sooner rather than later.

It's gotta be in time for Q4. If you're responsible for revenue at Microsoft, you desperately want to ship a new operating system in time for computer makers to load it on new computers during the crucial holiday selling season. If you miss that season and ship too late in the year, you surrender huge amounts of cash and alienate your partners. Windows Vista was originally supposed to ship in October 2006, and the delay to January 30, 2007 was just one of many missteps in its checkered existence.

Waiting until Q4 2010 is not an option. There's no way that Windows 7 can be ready for Q4 of 2008, so Microsoft and its PC maker partners are already braced for a lackluster selling season this year. But missing Q4 2009 also? Heads would roll in Redmond if that happened.

Yes, it can be done. Microsoft watchers like to point to the company's atrocious record with development timelines. Vista's messy schedule, with the notorious 2004 "Longhorn reset," could be a Harvard Business School case study in how not to build software. So why will things be different this time? Because Steven Sinofsky is in charge. During his tenure as head of the Office division, Sinofsky earned a reputation for shipping products on time. And with a stint as a visiting scholar at Harvard Business School on his bio, you can bet he's learned the lessons of Vista.

My prediction? I’m sticking with what I wrote back in January. Windows 7 will be released to manufacturing on July 29, 2009, exactly 1000 days after Vista's November 2, 2006 RTM date. [Update: As at least one commenter has noted, the official RTM date for Windows Vista was actually November 8, 2006, as noted in this press release. The November 2 date I mentioned reflects the time stamp on Vista system files, indicating that the final build was cut on that date and then tested for the next six days.]  That leaves plenty of time for PC makers to get their new models ready for the holiday buying season, and it even gives them a fighting chance at a decent back-to-school season.

So there's my entry in the Windows 7 Release Date Prediction Pool. Hit the Talkback button and add your guess. The rules are simple. You must enter one complete date – day, month, and year. In the event of a tie, the earliest post wins. The actual date will be determined by the date on Microsoft's official press release announcing the release to manufacturing of Windows 7.

Prizes? What, the smug satisfaction of knowing that you were right and I was wrong isn't enough? OK, I'll throw in an autographed copy of my first book on Windows 7. Let the guessing begin!


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