Both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will be available to users by the end of October this year – in the case of Windows 7, well ahead of the anticipated release date.
Suring a keynote address at Computex yeserday, Microsoft's OEM Division corporate vice-president Steve Guggenheimer revealed that the company is confident with the progress made with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, and Microsoft will deliver Release to Manufacturing (RTM) code to partners in the second half of July. Windows 7 will become generally available on 22 October 2009, while Windows Server 2008 R2 will be broadly available at the same time.
"As we've said many times, quality is our primary goal," Guggenheimer says. "We announce each milestone once we're confident of where we are in the development cycle and that it is ready to be shared with customers and partners. We've received great feedback from our partners who are looking forward to offering Windows 7 to their customers in time for the holidays."
In addition to this, Guggenheimer announced that Microsoft will make available an upgrade option, so partners can offer customers the ability to purchase a Windows Vista-based PC and install Windows 7 when it's ready.
"Microsoft has been working closely with partners to help our mutual customers be able to enjoy the many benefits of Windows 7," he says. "With that in mind, we're excited to say that there will be a Windows upgrade program available. Consumers can buy that new PC, whether for a student heading off to college or just because they need a new one, and know they'll get Windows 7 as part of the deal."
The actual start date for the programme will be announced when it is ready for consumers, and partners are ready to provide details to customers.
Guggenheimer adds that the power of innovation, through both software and broad collaboration with partners, will continue to benefit consumers, the industry and the economy at large.
"What we're doing with Windows will continue to improve people's lives so that that technology enables them to communicate better, make tasks simpler and new things possible," he says. "Our partners in the hardware space, our competitors in software – the entire industry is doing incredible things."
To illustrate the point, Guggenheimer points to the evolution of small notebook PCs (often referred to as netbook PCs), the ensuing emergence of a new class of "consumer Internet devices," and Microsoft's collaboration with "smart" appliance maker Fugoo, which was first announced at CES in January.
"It's hard to believe it's been a year since we first started to see small notebook PCs running Windows come to market," he says. "At that time, fewer than 10% of these devices were powered by Windows; now nearly 90% worldwide are Windows-based."
The broad adoption, Guggenheimer says, shows that small notebooks are answering a market need, especially given the economic situation. It also reflects that they have evolved a great deal in a short time to become powerful personal computers as opposed to the basic Web-surfing tools they were initially.
"A year ago when these smaller PCs first came onto the scene, many in the space were saying consumers wouldn't want or need these devices to be full-featured," he says. "In fact, the exact opposite turned out to be true. Consumers really do want small notebook PCs to work like their laptops and desktops. Windows provides a familiar and easy-to-use experience that consumers want and demand from these devices."
Asked why consumers are choosing smaller PCs with Windows, Guggenheimer says: "Because Windows makes life simple. It's easier to use, just works out of the box with people's stuff, and ultimately offers more choice. Over the last 34 years, we've learned a lot about what people want from their PCs, and we've worked with OEMs to provide an experience that meets those needs."
Guggenheimer says the economy may also be facilitating growth in the small notebook PC space. Buyers are becoming increasingly cost-conscious and mobile, and laptop sales are soon expected to outstrip desktop PC sales in developed economies.
"Fortunately, the breadth of the Windows platform gives device manufacturers a host of options when it comes to designing new devices to suit new forms of consumer demand," he says.
Already, several OEMs have announced plans to issue new small notebook PCs designed for the Windows 7 operating system.
"They are finding that even on the scaled-down hardware of the small notebook PC platform, Windows is running smoothly and delivering the experience consumers are asking for because it just makes things simpler and tasks easier," says Guggenheimer.
An example of new devices is in the broadening class of consumer Internet devices, which fall somewhere between smartphones and the full-featured small notebook PCs running Windows today.
"This next generation of smart, connected, service-oriented devices will give people mobile access to a rich set of media and information," he says. "Using Microsoft technologies like Windows Embedded CE, Visual Studio, Silverlight and Expression Blend, we can enable devices such as personal navigation devices, portable media players, set-top boxes and networked TVs to provide a rich browsing experience and a dynamic, immersive user interface."
Guggenheimer says the first such devices will connect to what Microsoft calls consumers' "digital lifestyles," such as files, pictures, music and video, that are currently stored primarily on Windows-based PCs.
"Soon these devices will become even more connected, working not only with PCs but also with cloud services from third parties and Microsoft, such as Windows Live Services," he says.