Several industry sources have confirmed to TG Daily that a very early version of Windows 7, previously code-named Blackcomb Vienna, already has been shipped to "key partners" as a "Milestone 1" (M1) code drop for validation purposes. A roadmap received by TG Daily indicates that the new operating system will be introduced in the second half of 2009.
While it has generally been believed that Windows 7 was scheduled for a 2010 debut, Microsoft has revised the roadmap and apparently moved up the release date by a few months: A recently distributed roadmap of the OS lists a release to manufacturing in H2 2009. Microsoft declined to comment on this date.
The current M1 drop is available to Microsoft partners in English only and has shipped in x86 and x64 versions. An interesting feature that has been highlighted by Microsoft is the ability of the M1 software to handle a heterogeneous graphics system consisting of multiple graphics cards from different vendors. A new version of the Media center is already integrated in this software, but supports PC speakers only at this time.
If Microsoft will be able to keep the H2 2009 RTM (and most likely) release date in place, the company will have two busy. The M2 code drop is currently scheduled for April/May 2008, M3 will follow in the third quarter. The dates for the first Beta and the release candidate are still listed as "To be determined" but it doesn't take much to see that the first beta versions could become available a year from now.
We will have more clarity on when we could see Windows 7 going into production will when Microsoft announces Windows Logo Program Changes for Windows 7. According to the policy of the firm, these changes will be announced 18 months prior to the scheduled RTM.
There are very few pieces of information about Windows 7 and the features it will bring available at this time. So far, we have heard only about new touchscreen features as well as – and probably most interesting – MinWin, a much smaller kernel of the operating system that takes up only 40 MB of memory.