Microsoft on Friday confirmed a report that first appeared in WinInfo last year: It will issue no more beta releases of Windows 7 and will instead move directly to a single release candidate (RC) and then the final release. The company offered no guidance on when we can expect the Windows 7 release, however.

"The next milestone for the development of Windows 7 is the Release Candidate or 'RC,'" Microsoft senior vice president Steven Sinofsky confirmed in a blog post. "We've released the feature complete Beta and have made it available broadly around the world. The path to Release Candidate is all about getting the product to a known and shippable state both from an internal and external standpoint."

Sinofsky notes that the RC version of Windows 7 will be "Windows 7 as Microsoft intends to ship it" and will place the OS on a fast track towards RTM (release to manufacturing), when the code is literally completed, and general availability (GA), when it is made available to the public. No timeline for the RC, RTM, or GA were provided. "The answer \[to the schedule questions\] is forthcoming," Sinofsky added.

"We are taking a quality-based approach to completing the product and won't be driven by imposed deadlines," Sinofsky claimed. "We're promising to deliver the best release of Windows we possibly can and that's our goal. Together, and with a little bit more patience, we'll achieve that goal."

While Microsoft's adherence to "ship when its ready" schedule is laudable, it's pretty clear that Windows 7 will, in fact, be delivered well before the 2009 holiday and back-to-school seasons, which are key sales bump periods in the consumer market. Insiders I've spoken to say we can expect to see the RC version of Windows 7 in April alongside Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2), and the RTM release by mid-year.