Ed Bott has been reading the tea leaves and is predicting that Microsoft will be shipping Windows 7 in July 2009:
But here’s the reality: Windows 7 will ship before August 1. It says so right on the release notes page for the beta:
When the Beta expires on August 1, 2009, you’ll need to reinstall a released version of Windows to keep using your computer.
Yes, that could be referring to Windows Vista or XP, but I don’t think so. In fact, you can narrow the release date even further by looking at the leaked details of the Windows 7 Upgrade Program, which is reportedly due to kick off on July 1. (The always-reliable Gregg Keizer has a concise explanation of the program and its details, with some historic subtext.) For Windows Vista, Microsoft’s James O’Neill notes that the free upgrade program started on October 24th, less than two weeks before the RTM date.
Hit the link for a full explanation, but this seems quite credible to me since Windows 7 is really just a Windows Vista Service Pack with a name change and there really isn’t any need for an extended beta process.
However, the question that interests me more is how much Microsoft is going to charge the early Vista adopters for Windows 7 upgrades. If you are able to tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs, Microsoft will merely have traded one public relations disaster for another. A related concern is that if you are a business purchasing department, how would you like to explain to the CEO why you bought Windows Vista machines when Windows 7 was imminent? An upgrade that cost money would be the icing on that cake.