The software giant has already shipped an early "Milestone 1" (M1) version of Windows 7 to its key partners for validation purposes and it's believed that the first beta versions of Windows 7 might be ready in early 2009:
The current M1 drop is available to Microsoft partners in English only and has shipped in x86 and x64 versions. An interesting feature that has been highlighted by Microsoft is the ability of the M1 software to handle a heterogeneous graphics system consisting of multiple graphics cards from different vendors. A new version of the Media center is already integrated in this software, but supports PC speakers only at this time.Few details are known about Windows 7, so far the only things we know is that it will have some new touchscreen features and that it may have a much smaller and faster kernel.
If Microsoft will be able to keep the H2 2009 RTM (and most likely) release date in place, the company will have two busy. The M2 code drop is currently scheduled for April/May 2008, M3 will follow in the third quarter. The dates for the first Beta and the release candidate are still listed as “To be determined” but it doesn’t take much to see that the first beta versions could become available a year from now.
We will have more clarity on when we could see Windows 7 going into production will when Microsoft announces Windows Logo Program Changes for Windows 7. According to the policy of the firm, these changes will be announced 18 months prior to the scheduled RTM.