Asian and US PC industry sources told CNET that Microsoft is on track to release Windows 7 by this year's holiday season. The software giant hasn't publicly confirmed this goal, but it's possible they're keeping their mouth shut in order to not harm sales even further in this recessionary environment.
Microsoft is also putting the finishing touches on a program to offer Vista buyers a free or low-cost update to Windows 7. That program could kick off as early as July, sources said.
The company has run such "technology guarantee" programs in the past, typically allowing each PC maker to set the exact rules, but essentially offering buyers after a certain time to get a free upgrade to the next version. (TechArp has a post with even more details on Microsoft's planned Windows 7 Upgrade Program.)
In an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Microsoft senior VP Bill Veghte cautioned that the release still could be pushed into 2010, depending on customer feedback.
"I'm telling them that it could go either way," Veghte said in that January interview. "We will ship it when the quality is right, and earlier is always better, but not at the cost of ecosystem support and not at the cost of quality."
That remains the company's official position, although the wheels are spinning toward a release in time for Windows 7 machines to be sold this holiday season, PC industry sources tell CNET News.