Microsoft reporter queen bee Mary Jo Foley has put together a few signs suggesting that Windows 7 may debut earlier than anyone imagined—in the first half of next year. While it's been expected that it'll be released to manufacturing by the end of the year, a few signs point to it being on track to RTM before mid-2009. In particular, Microsoft is now advertising that the Windows Hardware and Engineering Conference 2008 will be the only chance to engage with the team before Windows 7 is released. WinHEC 2009 starts on May 3.
This would mean, as Foley points out, that the public beta expected in December would probably be the only public beta before release. It also makes Steve Ballmer's recent comments that it's okay to wait for Windows 7 make more sense—it's hard to push Vista with an aggressively straight face when the next Windows is really less than a year away. Of course, we'd prefer Windows 7 soon rather than later, but we'd also rather wait for a smooth, seamless launch that doesn't resemble Vista's rather ugly debut. It seems like Microsoft is really trying to get the launch (and the OS) right from the get-go this time, so we're actually kinda optimistic. [I Started Something]