Over at CNET News, Ina Fried is reporting that Microsoft is pretty much admitting that it intends to ship Windows 7 in time for it to land on PCs that are available for next year’s holiday season. Even without that new information, simple logic would tend to lead to that conclusion. The OS still needs enough polishing that it’s hard to imagine it shipping that much before the holidays, and Microsoft doesn’t want to repeat the slippage that led to Windows Vista shipping at the worst possible time: right after the holiday PC-buying rush.
(That delay gave Vista bad karma from the get-go: Microsoft rushed the release, and therefore shipped an OS before hardware and software companies were ready with compatible drivers and applications. Which resulted in a crummy experience for many early Vista buyers. Given that Microsoft had missed the holidays anyhow, it surely would have been wiser to delay Vista a few months further in order to get the launch right.)
Of course, almost 25 years of Windows releases proves that the fact that Microsoft intends to ship the OS on a certain schedule doesn’t mean it’ll hit it. But W7 is a relatively simple update from a technical standpoint, and it’s fairly far along already–and new Windows chief Steve Sinofsky has a better record than your average Microsoft exec for getting things done on time. So until there’s evidence that suggests otherwise, I’m assuming that the the first Windows 7 PCs will show up in stores roughly one year from now.