Microsoft has officially dropped the façade on Windows 7 in 2010 and conceded that its essentially completed operating system will ship this year.
Windows 7 will be released to manufacturing in about three months, pending feedback on the current release candidate, senior vice president of the Windows and Windows Live engineering group Steven Sinofsky said Monday.
RTM is when the operating system will be considered finished, and mass-production will begin with code pressed on CDs and code sent to OEMs for installation on new PCs.
A three-month date puts the RTM in August, putting PCs running Windows 7 in retail stores in October for the holiday shopping season if the usual three-month production and channel ramp-up is followed.
Acer, the world's second-largest manufacturer of PCs, last month nailed the Windows 7 launch date as October 23.
To put things in some context, Windows XP - the predecessor to the current Windows Vista - was released to manufacturing in the month of August and officially launched that following October.
Sinofsky buried the three-month date deep within a blog posting about Microsoft's release schedule. Ever the player, Sinofsky couched his words in the standard Microsoft corporate caveats. "Ultimately our partners will determine when their PCs are available in the market," he wrote.
RTM will also depend on whether the feedback and telemetry on Windows 7 matches Microsoft expectations. Microsoft is monitoring feedback and telemetry from the current release-candidate phase on devices that are being installed, and drivers, system performance in the areas of start-up and shut down, and the responsiveness of Internet Explorer.
Sinofsky can say Microsoft is monitoring all it wants. This operating system's a tuned-up version of Windows Vista that's largely finished thanks to the heavy lifting done on that previous version of Windows.
Microsoft is now in the standard, final phase of testing with features locked down. Nothing short of a major code re-write thanks to some hidden architectural flaw, overlooked security hole, or coding gotcha is going to prevent Windows 7 in October.
Furthermore, Microsoft on Monday began talking "customer wins" for Windows 7 among business users, meaning that the company's marketing and communications people - the last phase in the development and delivery cycle - are spinning up. Microsoft cited Pella Corporation, Continental Airlines, and the City of Miami as early Windows 7 wins.
These were very likely existing Microsoft and Windows customers rather than "wins", though, and either signed up or were asked to be early adopters - and given early access to code - because of their size or perceived importance in the build and testing processes.
To help sell Windows 7 to business, Microsoft on Monday used some familiar ideas in connection with these customers: the ability to create a productive and efficient environment, control costs, and security and data protection for corporations and small-and-medium-sized companies. ®