Microsoft has announced October 22 as the launch date of Windows 7, the latest version of the Windows operating system.
The software giant said last month that Windows 7, which replaces the much maligned Vista, would be available to customers in time for the holiday shopping season. The October release date is ahead of expectations.
Windows operating systems are used in about 90 per cent of the world's computers, according to industry figures. Windows generated around one third of Microsoft's $60 billion income in 2008.
Microsoft released a nearly-final version of Window 7, known as Windows 7 Release Candidate, last month and invited feedback from the public in a test of the operating system's capabilities.
Copies of Windows 7 RC were also made available to developers and early reviews have praised the new operating system for its stability and for a host of new consumer-friendly features.
Vista complaints included that it was not compatible with some software designed for the previous-generation Windows XP operating system and that it was too much for smaller capacity "netbooks" or older computers to handle.
"We feel confident that we will deliver Windows 7 with our partners on October 22," Bill Veghte, senior vice president for Microsoft's Windows business, said.
Windows 7 will be available on new PCs from October 22. Microsoft will also sell versions that people can install on existing PCs.
PC makers and resellers will offer free upgrades to Windows 7 for people who buy a new computer running the Home Premium, Business or Ultimate version of Windows Vista shortly before Windows 7 arrives. However, Microsoft did not say whether the upgrade program will begin in time for back-to-school shopping, another crucial period for the PC industry.
Industry analyst Roger Kay, of Endpoint Technologies, said it was reasonable to think Microsoft would offer upgrades two months in advance of Windows 7's launch. "The industry must be careful not to kill sales leading up to the introduction, and back-to-school is the first possibility of some relief in this market," Kay said.
The world's largest software company also faces new threats to its dominance in operating systems, especially in the fast-growing "netbook" market for small, portable PCs ideal for surfing the Internet and sending email. Earlier on Tuesday, netbook pioneer Acer said it plans to sell small PCs that run on Google new Android operating system, making it the first manufacturer to do so.
Microsoft said it will send Windows 7 code to PC makers to load onto new machines - known in the industry as "release to manufacturing" - around the end of July.
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