According to Chris Flores, Director of Microsoft's Windows Client Communications Team, if your hardware runs Windows Vista, it will work with Windows 7.
The post, published on the Windows Vista Team blog, begins by regaling us with tales of how great and successful Windows Vista has been. Work your way through this stuff and you eventually get to the meat of the post [emphasis added]:
Another question we often get asked is whether Windows 7 is a major release. The answer is "yes" -- it's hard to describe any product that is used by millions of people and worked on by thousands of engineers as anything else. That said, the long-term architectural investments we introduced in Windows Vista and then refined for Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 will carry forward in Windows 7. Windows Vista established a very solid foundation, particularly on subsystems such as graphics, audio, and storage.
So those of you expecting Microsoft to press the DEL key on the whole Vista thing are going to be disappointed.
Contrary to some speculation, Microsoft is not creating a new kernel for Windows 7. Rather, we are refining the kernel architecture and componentization model introduced in Windows Vista.
Bingo! Just as expected.
In fact, one of our design goals for Windows 7 is that it will run on the recommended hardware we specified for Windows Vista and that the applications and devices that work with Windows Vista will be compatible with Windows 7.
Doesn't it give you a warm fuzzy feeling to know that your hardware investment in Vista won't become landfill as soon as "7" is out? This is where Microsoft stumbled badly with Vista and it seems that it's not going to make the same mistake twice.
We are well into the development process of Windows 7, and we're happy to report that we're still on track to ship approximately three years after the general availability of Windows Vista.
So, that pegs the release at around early to mid 2010.
As for features and specific dates for betas and so on, Microsoft remains tight-lipped.
Nothing hugely exciting there, but this does hammer down a few markers that we can use to move forward from.