Windows 7 ‘Release Candidate’ Due Next Week

Windows 7

Microsoft confirmed late Friday that it will indeed make the first — and likely only — “Release Candidate” (RC) for Windows 7 available for the public to try out on May 5.

In mid-April, reported that some of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) hardware and software partners had already received the version of the code meant to be the final RC build.

In Microsoft developer parlance, an RC is the final stage of testing — mostly looking for “fit and finish” types of problems — before commercial release of a software product. However, if a so-called “showstopper” bug, one that is bad enough to halt the process, is found, developers patch it and issue a second RC, or more if necessary.

The software titan has been close-lipped about timing for Windows 7, which it is pushing hard as the “replacement” for the disappointing Windows Vista, partly to build buzz around its pending arrival,

Nine days after word leaked out about the RC’s pending release, Microsoft made it official.

“A lot of folks want to know when they can get their hands on the official RC, when we are going to RTM,” Brandon LeBlanc, a blogger on Microsoft’s Windows Blog, wrote in a post. “I’m pleased to share that the RC is on track for April 30th for download by MSDN and TechNet subscribers. Broader, public availability will begin on May 5th.”

According to published reports, Microsoft had initially thought seriously of not having a full public beta, but relented after users objected.

Assuming users and developers don’t find any serious problems with the RC build, Windows 7 could be out as early as late summer, according to some analysts. Others, however, suggest that rather than confuse consumers by having only some Windows 7 PCs on sale by the back-to-school season, Microsoft may wait until the holiday sales season.

Additionally, testing the RC apparently began slightly late, however. Originally, RC testing was slated to begin around April 14. While May 5 is three weeks past that date, though, April 30 testing by tech subscribers would make that only a little more than a week late.

That may mean that Microsoft completes the software and makes the “Release to Manufacturing” (RTM) date in June that reported last fall was the original schedule for Windows 7.

One surprise — and perhaps not the last one — popped up on Friday. Microsoft quietly announced on the Windows Blog that Windows 7 will feature a compatibility mode based on Windows XP virtualization that enables users to run Windows XP apps that otherwise might not run.

Microsoft did not say when the so-called “Windows XP Mode,” or XPM, would debut — before or after the RC — but said it will be in the final release.

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