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Has Windows 7's Release Candidate Slipped?

Microsoft's execs must be biting their tongues this week after someone at the company posted a Web page on the software giant's TechNet site implying that the public release candidate of Windows 7 is now due in May. The company typically doesn't preannounce intermediate or final ship dates until it is sure it can meet them – particularly after the multi-year debacle that dragged out leading to the final release of Windows Vista.

So no surprise that, almost as quickly as it went up, someone took the post down, but not before several tech sites, including Ars Technica, Bink.nu, and Neowin.net, noticed and captured screen shots, posting them on their own pages.

Up until now, many technology observers had been expecting the so-called 'release candidate' – the final test stage before a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) software product is released commercially – to arrive in April.

Not so, according to the TechNet page.

"Welcome to Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) Testing," states the captured page, which is dated May 2009. The page goes on to say that the RC, as it's called, will be available for download through the end of June 2009. Those statements seem to put a more definitive boundary around when users should expect the final release of Windows 7 than previous leaks.

Additionally, the page's apparent accidental posting may also indicate that Windows 7's timing is shifting slightly later as Microsoft prepares for RC testing. However, a company spokesperson responded to those questions by embracing what has been the party line on Windows 7's schedule all along.

"Microsoft is currently in the development stages for Windows 7 and the specific release date of the next Windows 7 product milestone will be determined once the company meets its quality bar for the release," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mailed statement.

Under that rationale, the only delivery date Microsoft has committed to for Windows 7 is to say it will ship by June 30, 2010 -- but what about the untimely Web posting?

"The Windows 7 Release Candidate download page [was] briefly posted on TechNet as part of the regular testing of Microsoft properties," the spokesperson said.

Leaks aplenty

However, Microsoft executives must be frustrated because so many dates and features have been leaked during Windows 7's development cycle. For instance, pre-beta, beta, and post-beta builds of Windows 7 all slipped out and were posted on BitTorrent sites since last fall.

InternetNews.com reported in September that, at that time, the plan was to bring Windows 7 to the 'release to manufacturing' or RTM stage by June 3.

That date could now be in jeopardy, perhaps due to the more than half a million bug reports and other feedback that testers submitted during the approximately month long beta test cycle this winter.

Up until this latest inadvertent revelation, some optimistic observers were looking for a mid-April RC that would typically last approximately a month or six weeks, followed by RTM and public sales.