Windows 7 could launch as early as August

With XP, Vista as a guide, Windows 7 could debut between Aug. 28 and Sept. 20

Although Microsoft Corp. refuses to name a delivery date for Windows 7, it could launch the new operating system as early as August, according to timeline comparisons of significant dates for Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Those calculations bolster speculation that Microsoft has already set a ship date. Earlier this week, for example, a senior Microsoft executive said that a release in time to make 2009's crucial holiday selling season was "accomplishable," a departure from policy that has only promised to deliver Windows 7 within three years of Vista's appearance.

Thursday, the gadget site Pocket-lint went even further as it said Acer Inc.'s Bobby Watkins had pegged Oct. 23 as Windows 7's launch date.

Watkins confirmed that Acer customers who buy a Vista-powered computer in the 30 days leading up to Oct. 23 will receive a free upgrade to Windows 7. "October 23 is the date that Windows 7 will be available," said Watkins, managing director of Acer's U.K. operations in an interview with the site. "There is a 30-day upgrade time so that customers don't wait to buy a new computer, so if you buy during that 30-day period, you'll get a free upgrade to Windows 7."

Comparisons with XP's and Vista's development pace show that Watkins' Oct. 23 date is feasible. In fact, if Microsoft adheres to a schedule similar to XP, it could roll out Windows 7 as soon as late August.

In 2001, Microsoft issued its first Windows XP release candidate (RC1) 115 days before it shipped the operating system on Oct. 25. Five years later, Microsoft publicly unveiled Windows Vista 138 days after it delivered that OSs' first release candidate.

Applying the 115- and 138-day spans to the May 5 public availability of Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) puts the new operating system's launch date somewhere between Aug. 28 and Sept. 20, 2009, assuming Microsoft follows a trajectory like it did with XP or Vista.

Microsoft today declined to comment on a Windows 7 ship date. A company spokeswoman stuck to the official, and well-practiced line. "We are currently in the development stages for Windows 7 and expect it will take approximately three 3 years from Windows Vista Consumer [general availability] to develop," she said in an e-mail response to questions. "The specific release date will be determined once the company meets its quality bar for release."

Windows 7 RC was made available yesterday to subscribers of the for-pay Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) and TechNet services. After several hours of problems early Thursday that blocked subscribers from downloading the RC, Microsoft had fixed the trouble and put both sites' download pages back online.

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Gregg Keizer

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