Publicly, Microsoft has said Windows 7, the successor operating system to the firm's much maligned Windows Vista, will not ship until early 2010, but its internal calendar has June 3, 2009 as the planned release date, has learned.
Also, Microsoft will use its Professional Developer's Conference in late October as the launch platform for the first public beta of Windows 7. Microsoft plans to release the first beta on October 27, the first day of the show, when Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie will be the keynote speaker.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has two major developer shows planned for the Los Angeles area in a two week period: PDC on October 27 to October 30, and the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) is a week later. While PDC has listed its keynote speakers, Microsoft has not listed who will be the keynote speakers at WinHEC.
One hardware vendor, who asked not to be identified, the internal builds are already available for testing and certification of hardware. However, these betas are only available to partners for hardware and software certification, not open to all developers. Microsoft has what are called Milestone builds and is believed to be on its third major build, called M3, before releasing the beta.
When asked for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson that the company is in the planning stages for Windows 7 and "development is scoped to three years from Windows Vista consumer general availability." Beyond that, the company said it was not sharing additional information at this time.
Microsoft has previously said that Windows 7 would ship in early 2010, and given Vista's January 2007 ship date, that date matches the above Microsoft statement. Its beta cycles are usually about a year in length, so a June ship date would be cutting it close. Then again, it has had a long time to work on it - Vista released to manufacturing in late 2006 - and it's not changing much.
"I know they've been working on it feverishly, and the codebase is not all that far from Vista, so it's not a complete development project like they had to undertake between Windows XP and Vista," said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies.
Directions on Microsoft analyst Mike Cherry saw two sides to a PDC release and made an equally strong argument for both. "That would be the sort of event where they would want to give it to that audience," he told "That is going to be a large collection of your independent software vendors and developers from your large enterprise customers who write in-house apps and you're going to have some of the OEMs and hardware people there as well."
On the other hand, he is bothered by the trend on Web sites to review beta code, including evaluating performance, when no one should look at the performance of beta code.
"They may be a little bit concerned about how people have started to write reviews on beta code," said Cherry. "They may be weighing the concern that giving developers too early of a release could result in reviews with negative information based on an early look at the product and Windows 7 needs no bad news."
As evidence, he points to the fact that recent betas of Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome were reviewed, including how they perform. Also, Vista's first beta was reviewed on a number of sites, and its poor performance was heavily panned.
As it is, Microsoft already had to deal with a Windows 7 leak getting out. Milestone 1, a build of the OS, leaked onto BitTorrent sites earlier this year. The first thing some sites did was evaluate it and compare it to Vista when the code was in a very early state.
Kay defends Vista as well, saying it has improved quite a bit since its launch, but after 18 months of FUD and John "I'm a PC" Hodgeman being humiliated in those Apple commercials, it's a lost cause. "I think the perception is still worse than the reality," he said. Still, it might be easier to sell a new product than repair the rep of the old one. "You can make a case that the brand has an image that is impossible to remake."
Windows Vista had more than its share of problems, most notably the device driver boondoggle. Device drivers either were not ready or were in a pitiful state at launch, causing all manner of problems with customers attempting to upgrade their PC from Windows XP. Microsoft and third-party hardware companies extended fingers of accusation all around while consumers extended a finger of something else at all parties.
Then there were other problems. The User Access Control (UAC), which was supposed to protect against malware, became such a pain in the backside most people disabled it. Application performance was often slower on Vista than it was on XP.
All of these problems were a gold mine for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), which has launched a lengthy and extremely successful advertising campaign of ridicule against Microsoft. Microsoft has attempted to reverse this with Project Mojave, where they have consumers play with Vista and not tell them it's Vista until after they've enjoyed using it.
Almost two years after the launch of Vista, it's viewed as too little, too late, and Microsoft seems anxious to put Vista as far behind it as possible while hurrying toward Windows 7, the codename for the future product.
This much is known about Windows 7: development is being led by Steve Sinofsky, who led development of the very successful Office 2007. Windows 7 is not a whole new OS but an evolution of Vista, and will reuse the old kernel and device driver model. That means it would use the kernel in its newer state, when Microsoft updated it with Vista's first service pack. It also means existing device drivers for Vista will work on Windows 7.
Service Pack 1 did a lot to improve the stability and reliability of Vista, Cherry said, and he thinks Microsoft wants to stay on that track with Windows 7. "I don't expect them to mess with any elements of the OS that would put any of that at risk," he said.
"There's a variety of places where they may attempt to tune performance, like make changes to the UAC. I think you should think about this as being an interim release that's going to address some of the outstanding issues that are going to be blockers on this product and make it a good release," he said.