Microsoft today announced that Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will be available ("generally" and "broadly" respectively) on October 22. The Release to Manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 7 will be in the latter part of July.
This means that the first time you can buy a new Windows 7 PC will be October 22 and while that date misses the back-to-school shoppers, there will be some unspecified upgrade program to hopefully bring them in:
“Microsoft has been working closely with partners to help our mutual customers be able to enjoy the many benefits of Windows 7,” he said. “With that in mind, we’re excited to say that there will be a Windows upgrade program available. Consumers can buy that new PC, whether for a student heading off to college or just because they need a new one, and know they’ll get Windows 7 as part of the deal.”
The actual start date for the program will be announced when it is ready for consumers, and partners are ready to provide details to customers.
I have a profound dislike for OS upgrades for general consumers, but it may serve as a modest inducement for the hesitant whether or not an upgrade is ever installed.