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New signs point to Windows 7 debuting earlier than expected

Could it be that Windows 7 is even earlier than even the most optimistic date watchers are predicting and that it's on track to RTM before mid-2009?

As I've mentioned a couple of times on this blog, Microsoft privately is telling some of its customers that Windows 7 will be out in the latter half of 2009.

It's true, as Microsoft's spokespeople contend, that the "public guidance" around Windows 7 hasn't changed; Microsoft marketeers continue to state that Windows 7 is on track to ship three years after Windows Vista was released to market (and cite that target date as January 2010). As a number of Microsoft watchers, yours truly included, have noted, Microsoft is NOT going to release another version of Windows client in January again unless there's a awfully compelling reason to do so. The best time to RTM a new Windows release is summer if you hope to get it preloaded on back-to-school and holiday PCs.

With all this as a given, it's not surprising that OEMs are starting to admit that they expect to ship Windows 7 on new machines in the latter half of 2009.

I'm also not surprised that Microsoft is dropping hints about Windows 7 being ready sooner rather than later. As blogger Long Zheng noted, text on the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2008 site currently states that Windows 7 will ship before the next WinHEC is held. The exact wording:

"Be one of the first to see what's new in Windows 7 and be among a select few to receive a pre-beta build of Windows 7.  Join us as WinHEC 2008 – Register today. WinHEC is the only chance for you to engage with the team at this level – there is not another WinHEC planned before Windows 7 is released."

The plot thickens further. When I searched the Web for "WinHEC 2009," it looks like the next WinHEC seems to be slated for New Orleans from May 3-7, 2009 (although Microsoft potentially could postpone next year's WinHEC to late fall, like it did this year).

New signs point to Windows 7 debuting earlier than expected

Could it be that Windows 7 is even earlier than even the most optimistic date watchers are predicting and that it's on track to RTM before mid-2009? If it is, I wouldn't be surprised to see the broadscale, public Windows 7 Beta 1, which I'm still hearing is set for mid-December, to be the only public beta for the next Windows release.

Understandably, Microsoft isn't commenting on any of these latest date predictions. The company doesn't need to do anything more to throw cold water on Vista than its officials already have....

I'll be interested to see how forthcoming (or not) Microsoft officials are about Windows 7's due date at next week's Professional Developers Conference.