Although a public test version of Windows 7 is still at least a month away, Microsoft has hit a key internal milestone, according to several Windows enthusiast sites.
Several sites are reporting that Microsoft has hit the M3 (Milestone 3) stage, with the builds being distributed internally within Microsoft, as well as to some key partners. A Microsoft representative declined to comment beyond what has been said on the company's Engineering Windows 7 blog.
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley said that she has taken a peek at the new build, thanks to a source of hers. Foley said that it appears to be fairly stable, at least in her short time with the software, and also noted that it didn't appear to be a major departure from Windows Vista.
She noted that the internal Paint and WordPad programs have a user interface similar to the "ribbon" approach used by Office 2007.
On his UX Evangelist site, Stephen Chapman posted what appears to be a screenshot of the new Paint program.
As for what this all means, Foley said that this may be the last key internal milestone before some sort of public preview version, possibly in time for the Professional Developers Conference set for late October. A full beta 1 version might be ready by year's end, she said.
The real speculation game has centered around when a final version of 7 will ship. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said he wants the release out by late 2009, although the latest hot rumor is that the company may be aiming for a release as early as June 2009.