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Windows 7 Release Candidate Arriving in May?

Microsoft may be trying to send a message that the next release of Windows 7 will happen in May of this year.

A TechNet Web page titled, "Windows 7 Release Candidate," briefly appeared on the Internet showing a May publish date on it, even though Microsoft has not publicized its release plans.

Currently, Windows 7 is being tested at the beta stage, with the beta set to expire on August 1. The release candidate is the next test version that follows the beta. After that, a release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage happens, giving equipment manufacturers time to image and install the OS on new PCs.

A screenshot of the TechNet page was captured by Ars Technica and published on Thursday. The page plainly states that the Windows 7 Release Candidate "will be available at least through June 2009," expiring on "June 1, 2010."

Microsoft has since replaced the page, and it now reads, "Welcome to the Windows 7 Beta Customer Preview Program."

The TechNet post may be a mistake or an intentional leak, but the usual description from Microsoft officials has typically pegged the RTM date for Windows 7 as happening sometime in early 2010. However, a representative for a PC manufacturer told last month that Windows 7 should appear in September or October of this year.

Microsoft's OS release cycles depend heavily not just on the internal bug fixes, but also on Microsoft's hardware and software partners, who are currently testing the interoperability of their products with Windows 7.

This point was underscored in January by Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's senior vice president of the Windows and Windows Live engineering group. He noted the need for both internal and external readiness in an Engineering Windows 7 blog post.

The Microsoft executives who started the Engineering Windows 7 blog let it be known in their first post that Microsoft would keep some Windows 7 information fairly close to the vest. The blog was started by Sinofsky, along with Jon DeVaan, Microsoft's senior vice president of the core operating system division.

Since that time, the Engineering Windows 7 blog has been filled with detailed posts on just about everything but the Windows 7 release schedule. The blog hinted at the reason.

"We, as a team, definitely learned some lessons about 'disclosure' and how we can all too easily get ahead of ourselves in talking about features before our understanding of them is solid," the authors wrote on August 14.

The blog may be referring to a disaster that happened with Windows Vista. Presumably, Microsoft's partners planned for the wrong features or got confused by Microsoft's communications. The result: early Vista users described a lack of driver support, which soured Vista's reputation.

So far, Windows 7 has been getting good reviews, even as a beta release. It uses the same code base as Vista and the new OS has even been referred to as an "incremental update to Windows Vista" by a Gartner analyst. Microsoft even claims that Windows 7 can run some apps that previously would not run on Vista.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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