At this point, anything else would have been a heckuva surprise, but now it’s formal: At its Tech Ed conference today, Microsoft announced that it plans to ship Windows 7 (and Windows Server 2008 R2) in time for the holidays. Until now, the company had just been saying that it planned to get Win 7 out within three years of Vista’s release, which could have left it arriving in early 2010.
I’m not at Tech Ed, but Microsoft’s press release doesn’t seem to define what it means by the holiday season. The company is presumably confident that it can get Windows 7 onto new PCs and into stores by late November. But with the Windows 7 Release Candidate seemingly in good shape and no further major pre-release versions planned, you don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to speculate that Microsoft really thinks it can get the OS out in time for students heading off to college this fall to buy Windows 7 laptops, and that it’s saving that news to spring on us later.
If Windows 7 does indeed ship months before Microsoft’s self-imposed deadline, it’ll be good news–assuming, of course, that the version that ships is robust, and well-supported by applications and devices. It’s going to feel odd being deprived of one of the tech world’s most reliable guffaws, though: the notion that Windows. Always. Ships. Late.