Is Windows 7 Release to Manufacturing Imminent?

Windows 7 is about to hit a last, critical milestone for Microsoft — one that defines whether or not customers can actually find it on store shelves and in new PCs on October 22.

That step, called “Release to Manufacturing” (RTM), is the point at which all the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) executives who have responsibility for Windows 7 sign off on the final code. From there, PC vendors and retail outlets can begin their own processes of locking down plans for delivering Windows 7 in preparation for its release date.

According to several savvy Web sites, RTM will occur this coming Monday, July 13. That would put its release fittingly on the first day of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans. CEO Steve Ballmer is scheduled to give one of the keynotes at the conference, although his speech is set for Tuesday, July 14.

However a source briefed on Microsoft’s plans said reports that RTM could be as soon as July 13 are too optimistic — the actual date will be closer to the end of the month.

Leading the rumor mill posse is Malaysian tech enthusiast site, which has a solid track record of finding out critical Microsoft product dates nearly as soon as Microsoft discloses them to its partners.

Another tech site that’s been tracking Windows 7,, has also been touting July 13 for RTM. last Friday said that sources close to Microsoft had “confirmed” the date.

In fact, in early June, when Microsoft announced October 22 as the date for “General Availability” (GA), company officials also said that RTM was then on target for “late July.”

Windows 7, Microsoft’s replacement for Windows Vista, entered “Release Candidate” (RC) testing — the final test phase before RTM — in early May.

A Microsoft spokesperson said there has been no change in the schedule for Windows 7 to reach RTM.

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