VentureBeat presents: AI Unleashed - An exclusive executive event for enterprise data leaders. Network and learn with industry peers. Learn More

It’s pretty clear that Microsoft would rather see its next operating system, Windows 7, sooner rather than later. But conflicting reports and opinions have it launching anywhere from mid-2009, to sometime in 2010.

Officially, Windows 7 may or may not be ready for the 2009 holiday season. “I’m telling them that it could go either way,” Windows executive Bill Veghte told CNET’s Ina Fried earlier this week. But that’s just a cautious company line, says ZDNet’s Ed Bott, who goes on to predict that we’ll see Windows 7 hit shelves sometime in July 2009. Yes, just 6 months from now.

Microsoft hasn’t had the best record recently for hitting launch windows (no pun intended) — Windows Vista, for example was delayed. And the original thought was that Windows 7 would roll out sometime in 2010.

But consumer backlash — or maybe more appropriately, apathy — towards Windows Vista seems to have shifted that timetable forward. And now Microsoft appears to be in high gear. After only announcing the product’s name in October, Microsoft already launched a public beta version of Windows 7 on Friday — which, after some server issues, is now available.

It’s also interesting to note that this beta expires on August 1, 2009, at which point you’ll have to install a new version of Windows or revert to your old one. Bott takes this to mean that Windows 7 will launch before then, but notes that there could be some wiggle room for slight delays when a post-beta release candidate launches, resetting the expiration date.

Apple is set to launch its latest operating system, OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard,” sometime in 2009, and probably in the first half of the year. That will put additional pressure on Microsoft to get Windows 7 out the door somtime in 2009 — that is, unless Microsoft actually beats them to launch.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.