LOS ANGELES--In a technical session on Thursday afternoon, Microsoft provided the clearest public indication that it is planning on getting Windows 7 completed in time to run on PCs that ship for next year's holiday buying season.
In a presentation on its somewhat secretive Velocity program to improve PC quality, Microsoft director Doug Howe showed a slide saying that the Vista Velocity program would continue through next spring as Microsoft worked to improve Vista machines that ship in next year's back-to-school time frame. He went on to say that Microsoft would continue the Velocity effort with Windows 7.
The slides and Howe's presentation appeared to confirm what has been widely speculated--but something Microsoft has not outright said--namely that Windows 7 is aimed to ship around mid-year, in time to be on machines that ship for the 2009 holiday buying season. After the session, Howe essentially confirmed that Microsoft is aiming Windows 7 for the holidays.
"Definitely the holiday focus is going to be on 7," Howe told me.
Although hardly shocking, Microsoft has worked hard not to publicly commit to shipping Windows 7 for next year's PCs. While partners have been told privately when to expect Windows 7, the company is trying to avoid the PR hit that would come with missing another deadline. Officially, the party line is that Windows will ship within three years of the January 2007 consumer release of Windows Vista.
Microsoft hasn't said more about that timing at either this week's WinHEC or last week's Professional Developer Conference. It has said that it will ship a beta version early next year and also hinted that only one release candidate is planned.
The session also shed a little more light on the Velocity program itself. Initially open only to selected computer makers, Microsoft is trying to open up the program somewhat to other hardware and software makers, though it still has yet to publicly say what its criteria are or how it will promote the computers that pass its testing.
Howe said increased marketing is a benefit for computer makers, and a slide said computer makers get promotion in Microsoft's advertising, but Howe would not offer any further details.
As far as criteria, Microsoft didn't offer a list at the session, though Howe confirmed that one of the current benchmarks is having a system that boots up and is ready to run within 50 seconds. Many machines that have gone through the velocity testing can boot up faster, he said, but because there are so many factors that can influence boot times, Microsoft wanted a goal that was broadly achievable.
Microsoft started Velocity in July 2007 as a three-month effort to see what were the main causes of sluggish system performance. It quickly realized a broader effort was needed and has kept the program going as an effort for computer makers to create "best-in-class" machines. The program focuses on improving start-up and shut-down times as well as tasks like going to sleep and waking. Other criteria include making sure that systems ship with stable drivers and software that has been proved to be Vista-compatible.
The specific testing itself is done at Microsoft's labs in Redmond, Wash., Howe said.