In a bizarre bit of theater, Microsoft opted not to announce the completion of Windows 7 on Monday as originally planned. Instead, the company is sticking by its previously announced goal to deliver the product to partners by the end of the month.

Behind the scenes, it's simply a matter of semantics. Microsoft completed the final Windows 7 build, build 7600, just days ago on July 10. But as is always the case, it will take the next two weeks to test the build and, if needed, iterate it in small ways. One such iteration has reportedly already taken place, but none of these changes will affect the actual build number of the product.

During Monday's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) keynote, Microsoft Senior Vice President Bill Veghte said vaguely that his company would RTM Windows 7 "this month." But the transcript for this talk has Veghte saying that RTM would occur "this morning" (i.e., Monday morning), the widely reported date that Microsoft was expected to complete Windows 7.

In addition to backing off from the RTM announcement, Microsoft also lashed out at bloggers who were spreading rumors about the Windows 7 RTM. "Don't believe everything that you read on the Internet," a Microsoft representative notes in the official Windows 7 blog. "This process takes time."

Aside from the weirdness around the Windows 7 RTM, Microsoft did provide some new details about the product's delivery. Windows 7 will be made available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers "a few weeks" after Microsoft declares RTM, so presumably by mid-August. Microsoft's volume license customers will get access to Windows 7 almost two months earlier than consumers, on September 1. And as with the limited-time offer Microsoft and its partners are offering on Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional, the company will offer Windows 7 at a 15–35 percent discount to its business users who previously upgraded to Vista.

Microsoft also voiced its expectations for Windows 7 in the market, and it's all good news. Unlike the supposedly slow uptick for Windows Vista—the reality is that Vista has sold as well as XP did during the same time frame—Windows 7 should get off to a fast start. IDC expects Microsoft to sell 177 million licenses to Windows 7 by the end of 2010, meaning that the fledgling OS will have a market almost six times the size of the entire Mac user base in just over a year.

The success of Windows 7 won't be limited to just Microsoft, either. IDC expects Windows 7 to create over $320 billion in product and services revenues for Microsoft's partners by the end of 2010 as well. Since the vast majority of these partners are small and medium-sized businesses, most of those revenues will remain local and drive local economic growth, according to IDC. That's right: Windows 7 will be a driver of the economic recovery over the next 15 months. IDC calls Windows 7 a "stimulus package in its own right."

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