Microsoft will make Windows 7 available to businesses and consumers in time for the typically busy holiday shopping season in the fourth quarter of the year, according to company officials.
Windows Server 2008 R2, the server companion to the client OS, also will be available at the same time. Microsoft unveiled the information to journalists just ahead of its keynote at its annual conference, which kicks off Monday in Los Angeles.
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Microsoft also said it plans to release a technical preview of the next version of its other key software product, Office 2010, in July to all attendees of the conference.
Ward Ralston, a group product manager at Microsoft, said not to think of the release as having anything to do with Microsoft's own internal product schedule for Office 2010, the release date of which has not been revealed.
Instead, the preview is "a build we feel has enough quality in it so customers can be successful evaluating the product and giving us feedback," he said.
Microsoft made available the first release candidate of Windows 7 about two weeks ago, signaling that the company is close to a final release of the product, and so far the buzz about the OS has been generally positive.
Windows 7 is an important release for Microsoft as it follows the disappointing Windows Vista, which Microsoft took more than five years to develop and generally did not live up to its promise.