A Microsoft website inadvertently leaked the software giant's plans to deliver the Release Candidate (RC) version of Windows 7 to the public on May 5, suggesting that the company has already delivered this version internally and will soon make it available to partners. The Windows 7 RC will be the last major pre-release milestone for Microsoft's next Windows version, which is now expected to be finalized by the end of the third quarter of 2009.

"Partners, if you have a subscription to MSDN or TechNet, you can download Windows 7 RC now," a page on the Microsoft website read over the weekend. "Otherwise, you can download Windows 7 RC starting May 5, 2009." The note, however, was erroneous and likely just posted early. As of this of writing, the Windows 7 RC hasn't been made available to Microsoft's partners. My expectation is that that will happen as early as tomorrow, two weeks before the expected public release.

By Monday, the note on the Microsoft website had been removed, and Microsoft has made no public comment about the gaffe. Readers might recall that a similar informational leak about the Windows 7 Beta occurred just before its release in January. One wonders if Microsoft isn't prepping its user base implicitly, but purposefully, with these leaks.