Microsoft sets Windows 7 launch for October 22

PC buyers from July to October to be offered special upgrade deals

Microsoft will put Windows 7 on store shelves and computer makers will have systems ready to sell with Vista's successor on October 22, the company confirmed today.

Microsoft will also offer discounted or free upgrades to Windows 7 to users who buy PCs in the months leading up to the operating system's launch in a program dubbed "Windows Upgrade Option," a company spokeswoman said Tuesday. Although the name is new, the program had been reported as early as January, when a website leaked information about the deal, including its July 1 kick-off.

Until today, Microsoft had been coy about naming a release date for Windows 7, although it edged toward a timetable last month. Both Bill Veghte, the senior vice president who runs the Windows Business unit, and Steven Sinofsky, the senior vice president of the Windows engineering group, said then that Windows 7 was on track for the holiday selling season, and would make the final milestone — called "release to manufacturing," or RTM — in mid-August. Today, however, other company spokespersons said Microsoft is shooting for RTM by the end of July.

Details on the Windows Upgrade Option were not immediately available, but analysts have assumed that it would resemble Vista Express Upgrade, a programme that gave people who purchased Windows XP PCs between October 26, 2006, and March 15, 2007, free or inexpensive upgrades to Vista.

Vendors were allowed to set the price, if any, of the XP-to-Vista upgrades, and it's believed that they will have the same flexibility for Windows 7.

This isn't the first time that October has been named as the likely ship date for Microsoft's new OS. In an interview last month, an Acer executive based in the UK said "October 23 is the date that Windows 7 will be available." The executive, Bobby Watkins, the managing director of Acer's UK operations, also confirmed that customers who bought a Vista-powered computer from the company in the 30 days leading up to October 23 would receive a free upgrade to Windows 7.

Also last month, Computerworld used Sinofsky's mid-August RTM date to predict that Windows 7 would go on sale sometime between October 11 and November 4, based on the actual timetables of Windows XP and Vista, respectively.

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