It's time to 'fess up, Steve
No, not that Steve. I've given up on him. This message is for Mr. Sinofsky, whom I trust is a regular reader.
Steve, you have managed to do something that I have never seen in all my time covering the tech sector, and that is create genuine excitement for a Windows release. Windows 95 was met with trepidation because of the 16/32-bit thunking. Win98 was met with a "meh" sentiment. It was an improvement over 95 but nothing to jump up and down over. ME was a flop. Things got a little better with Windows 2000 and XP because we finally put 16-bits to rest, but no one was actually psyched about it.
And then there was Vista.
As you noted in the Engineering Windows 7 blog, people don't want to go back to their old OS. I'm in the same boat. I use XP at work because I have to, and retain Vista on my home machines only out of backwards compatibility concerns. Thus far, I have not had to do so.
With Windows 7 rounding the bend toward Release Candidate status, it's impossible to maintain the current party line that it will come out in Q1 2010. No one beta tests software for a year, except maybe Blizzard Entertainment (hey Blizzard, just release StarCraft II and Diablo III already, I don't care what state they are in. I'm used to bug-riddled games. I play EverQuest.).
Clearly you anticipated questions about a release date because you addressed it in the blog post. Back in September I learned of (and reported on) the June 3, 2009 target for release. Thus far, the other days from the internal calendar have been met: the first preview code at the end of October, which was at PDC and the first wide beta in early January. I know your next target date is April 14 for the RC and have known since September.
Right now the country is in a funk. People couldn't even get terribly worked up over the Super Bowl. Sales are plunging across the board in the tech industry, except at Apple. It's time to create some excitement and give people something to look forward to. It's time to energize the sector and give OEMs some optimism for the first time in a long time. They have been suffering through drops in sales by as much as 50% year-over-year.
Windows 7 will drive PC sales not because people will need a new computer, but because people will no longer hesitate and balk because they know a new PC means being saddled with Vista. Yes, it's a better OS and the Apple FUD commercials are grossly unfair, but Apple has managed to reduce Vista's public credibility to mulch.
Nothing else has people fired up or excited this year. Announcing Windows 7 will ship this summer will give people that excitement, both consumers and your OEM partners alike. I thought Steve Ballmer would say it at CES, with that huge audience listening, but was wrong.
The next big event is CeBit in March, but you don't need big events any more to get the word out. That's 20th century thinking. This is the era of Twitter/Facebook/Digg/Fark/Technorati. Just say it on the Windows 7 blog and the Mars Rover will know about it in under an hour.
So say it.