Windows 7, coming soon to a computer near you

Microsoft says its next-generation operating system will be generally available on Oct. 22.

The public availability of Microsoft's newest operating system was announced by Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Original Equipment Manufacturer Division, at this week's Computex show in Taiwan. Currently, the OS is available as a "release candidate" test version.

Microsoft has announced that Windows 7 will be generally available this October 22.

The release is expected to come as welcome news for many government agencies, in part because Microsoft's Vista operating system typically required upgraded computers and because the Windows 7 release is expected to work more favorably on older machines, according to a Microsoft source who works with federal agencies.

Guggenheimer also announced the upcoming "release to manufacturing" (RTM) period for the OS, which will be the last two weeks of July, according to a Microsoft announcement. The RTM marks the period in which PC hardware manufacturers start loading the OS on new computers.

Microsoft is also telling its partners that the Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM code will be available in the second half of July, according to a Windows blog. The server and client operating systems typically get released together by Microsoft since they share the same code base.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the general availability date of Windows 7, as well as that Microsoft is planning a program to spur sales of new PCs loaded with the current flagship Windows Vista OS.

"There will be a 'Tech Guarantee'-like program known as Windows Upgrade Option. Details on that to come," the spokesperson explained by e-mail message.

Tami Reller, Microsoft's vice president and chief financial officer, told financial analysts last week that Microsoft "was happy" with earlier tech guarantee programs for Windows XP and Vista, in which Microsoft typically deferred 50 percent of its revenues as an incentive. She added that with Vista, the tech guarantee program was launched before the Vista RTM date.

If that schedule holds true with Windows 7, Microsoft likely will roll out its incentive program some time before the last two weeks of July. Leaked info, supposedly from OEMs, suggested that the tech guarantee program will begin on July 1.

It's largely thought that OEMs are chomping at the bit to offer Windows 7-based systems. Vista has had low sales results in the enterprise market, with an approximate 10 percent uptake in that market segment after two years of product availability. Driver availability snags and communication problems with outside software vendors initially plagued Vista sales, but Bill Veghte, senior vice president for Microsoft's Windows business, suggested that Microsoft's partners will be ready when Windows 7 arrives.

"We feel confident that we will deliver Windows 7 with our partners on October 22," Veghte told The Wall Street Journal.

Not every new PC loaded with Vista will be part of the tech guarantee program. Microsoft's announcement suggests that the incentive will be offered for PCs loaded with "Windows Home Premium and above." There also may be a fee associated with the upgrade, depending on the PC manufacturer.

Microsoft currently offers a 15 percent discount on Open Software Assurance or Open Value Software Assurance licensing based on the purchase of new PCs loaded with the Vista Business edition. That deal, which is limited to PCs bought before July 3, 2009, allows the licensee to upgrade to Windows 7 when it is available. The offer is described at the Microsoft Incentives page here.

While Vista is still Microsoft's current OS on the market, it's getting eclipsed by Windows 7. A reporter at Computex found few signs of Vista on the Computex showroom floor, even at Microsoft's booth.

NEXT STORY: Industry Recon

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