In early August, some PC makers were complaining they still didn't have access to tools they needed to get Windows 7 preloaded on new systems. A month later, system builders -- smaller, custom PC makers -- still don't have access to tools like the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK).
The OPK is designed to allow PC makers to automate the installation and customization of Windows and other Microsoft products on multiple PCs.
Microsoft is still telling system builders that they will get the tools they need in time to get Windows 7 to customers this fall. But it sounds like white-box vendors shouldn't expect more until some time in late September or October.
After hearing from a system builder who was wondering where to find the required Windows 7 delivery tools, I asked Microsoft for an update. A corporate spokesperson provided this update:
"Windows 7 OPKs are not currently available to system builders. As we get close the general availability date (October 22), we expand the ways in which we make the new version of Windows available to include the system builder channel.
"We delay release to system builders for two reasons. First, since system builders are typically local and have less complex supply chains, they can often go to market much faster than larger OEMs. Second, since system builders acquire product indirectly and are so numerous, there is no effective way for Microsoft to provide those partners the product earlier and maintain the established general availability date.
"Microsoft will begin shipping to distributors the system builder product as we approach the general availability date on October 22, 2009."
Larger OEMs got the final Windows 7 bits in July and their OPKs and and other automated-installation tools shortly thereafter. Microsoft is expected to highlight new Windows 7 form factors from a variety of these OEMs at launch on October 22 in New York City.
Speaking of launch, Microsoft also is planning to allow users who hold their own "house party" launches for Windows 7 between October 22 and 29 to win a free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate.