Call it an announcement that was officially unofficial, but unofficially official…

It wasn’t an official Microsoft (MS) team leader blog entry, just a word to selected reporters at last week’s MS Professional Developers Conference. But industry observers say a highly-placed, anonymous MS rep let slip that the company is targeting Christmas 2009 for the official launch of Windows 7, successor to the oft-maligned Vista.

That’s sharply at variance with the still-official MS position, that Windows 7 won’t ship officially until sometime in 2010, a full three years after the launch of Vista.

That aside, MS watchers and reporters also say they’re looking for a Windows 7 public beta version to be released within the next few weeks with an advanced beta, or ‘release candidate’, version to follow in the first or second quarter of next year.

Meanwhile… Those who saw, and had a chance to test drive, the early development version of Windows 7 say it is definitely faster to boot than Vista and runs some applications faster, as well. MS also recently uttered very public pleas (and warnings) to PC manufacturers not to load down MS operating systems with tons of factory-installed trial software, redundant Internet security suites and other ‘crapware’, many of which load automatically on startup and can double or triple Vista’s boot time.

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