Windows 7 screen shot.
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An executive at Taiwanese computer maker Acer said he expects his company to start shipping systems bearing Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system as early as October, though Microsoft has not confirmed the statement.
Acer U.K. managing director Bobby Ryan said the company plans to begin selling Windows 7-powered systems on Oct. 23, according to the popular tech blog Pocket Link. "23 October is the date Windows 7 will be available," said Watkins, in an interview with the site.
Watkins also said Acer is expecting Microsoft to launch a free Windows 7 upgrade program at least 30 days before the ship date so that consumers shopping for PCs during the September back-to-school season can purchase a Vista-based machine without fear of it becoming obsolete in a few weeks.
Publicly, Microsoft has said only that Windows 7 will be available about three years after Vista's debut. Vista launched in January 2007.
Beyond blog reports, there are other signs that Windows 7 is ahead of schedule.
Microsoft on Friday released a near-final version of the OS, Windows 7 Release Candidate, to its TechNet and MSDN professional subscribers. A public version of Windows 7 RC is slated for availability on May 5th.
If Microsoft is following a timetable similar to that employed for Vista development, then reports of a September or October release date for Windows 7 appear credible.
The first version of Windows Vista RC dropped in September 2006, about five months before the final version shipped. A similar five-month incubation period for Windows 7 RC would point to a commercial release this fall.
Microsoft needs Windows 7 to be a hit. Vista, the company's current operating system, has failed to catch on with mainstream computer users, while businesses have shunned it outright. Many users have complained about Vista's hardware requirements, intrusive security measures, and lack of compatibility with older applications.
Microsoft last week reported that Windows sales fell 16% in the most recent quarter.