With Windows 7 set to be finalised this week, business customers will get the fresh-baked OS by the end of this month – almost three months before its public debut.
There’s mounting speculation that Microsoft will use tomorrow’s kickoff for its annual Worldwide Partner Conference to announce that Windows 7 is ready to roll.
The buzz is that the latest build – officially stamped 7.7600.16384.090710-1945, although there’s an outside chance Microsoft might bump it up to the catchier 7.7700 – will be decreed as the RTM or ‘release to manufacture’ edition.
This is the signed-off and locked-down code which is distributed to Microsoft’s worldwide disc duplication centres to burn the official DVD for retail boxes
. The same ‘gold master’ is also sent to PC builders for necessary customisation into a licensed and branded OEM edition to be pre-loaded onto new PCs to go on sale from the official launch date of October 23rd
However, not everyone has to wait that long. The RTM code is expected to be posted before the end of this month onto Microsoft’s member-only distribution networks such as MSDN and TechNet.
And according to longtime Windows watcher Mary-Jo Foley
, Microsoft has also said that business customers who have purchased Windows volume licenses and ‘software assurance’ contracts will receive the new OS “before the end of July.”
Foley reports that “Customers who buy Software Assurance ... will have the rights to upgrade to Windows 7 on PCs they purchased starting on August 1, 2008. Microsoft is offering users 15 percent off the cost of Windows 7 via the promotion.”
Business customers have previously been given early access to each new version of Windows. For example, Windows Vista hit RTM status on November 8, 2006, and was released to business customers holding a volume licence on November 30th. The consumer launch of Vista was held two months later on January 30, 2007.