Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 to ship before the holidays

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Microsoft's Windows Business Senior Vice President Bill Veghte delivered what may very well have been one of the more disappointing keynote addresses to TechEd 2009 in Los Angeles this morning, judging not only in terms of features but in pure speech quality. But one hour and fifteen minutes into the address, he answered the key question he called one of two "elephants in the room:"

"When are we going to ship? This is a question that I get a lot," Veghte said. "We're going for holiday and we're tracking very, very well for it."

The sentence triggered some audible murmuring in the audience, probably as attendees wondered just which holiday he was talking about. Assuming it's Christmas as the ship date for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (expected to be released in tandem), the news may very well have come as a disappointment to software partners in the audience who had been hoping for a faster ramp -- at least October -- to enable them time to get their own products and upgrades ready in time for what will be critical holiday sales this season.

Veghte also invoked the code-phrase "tracking well," which Vista veterans will recall Microsoft's marketers used in 2006 to camouflage the product's many delays -- for instance, saying the product is "tracking well for January" or "on track for January" instead of "delayed until January."

Minutes after Veghte made the announcement, Microsoft elaborated on Veghte's statement to the press: "Microsoft is announcing that the next version of its client operating system, Windows 7, will be available to customers in time for the holiday shopping season."

Though press sources had been instructed to expect Windows Mobile 6.5 related news during the keynote this morning, it was apparently not to be. There was clearly time to have mentioned WM 6.5, that Veghte consumed "introducing" features of Windows 7 that most everyone in the audience had already seen, such as the taskbar. In what appeared to be a transparent effort to fill space prior to Mark Russinovich's initial demonstration (the real reason why most attendees came to the keynote anyway), Veghte conjured metaphors on the fly. At one point, referring to four items in a slide that he realized too late were not the company's "four pillars," he said, "We have a lot in those buckets. And those areas are great. And we hear that those areas are not enough."

Russinovich saved the day, however, with some demos of Windows 7 features that not even testers during the last week had found yet, including tweaks to the AppLocker feature introduced during the first beta cycle. That feature enables group policy to manage what kind or class of application is allowed to run on client systems.

Veghte's other "elephant in the room" concerned application compatibility, but by the time he had addressed it, Russinovich had already dismissed it with adept demonstrations of features such as App-V -- a way to push installed applications from servers to clients using a virtualization envelope.

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