The year's most highly anticipated software release, Windows 7, is just around the corner. Microsoft recently announced that the new OS would see general availability (consumer sales) on October 22. In preparation for that, it recently began its termination of the beta program, encouraging users to install the Release Candidate build which will be available until August.
A bevy of Windows blogs including Neowin.net, GeekSmack.net, and Wzor report that the final "gold" build of Windows 7 will occur on July 10 and the OS will see a release-to-manufacturing on July 13. Release to manufacturing builds are typically identical to general availability builds for major software releases. However, if a major bug is encountered, its possible the consumer release could feature something new.
The main purpose of the RTM build will be to give hardware manufacturers more time to tweak their drivers with a working "final" version of Windows 7. The release of the build will coincide with the kickoff of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WWPC) set to kick off in New Orleans.
Reportedly TechNet, MSDN, and a few other partner connections will all get the RTM build on July 13. Also, it can be expected that the build will quickly leak onto torrents -- all of Microsoft's previous "private" releases leaked in short time.
U.S. and Canadian consumers have until Saturday, July 11 to pre-order Windows 7 at an ultra cheap price of $49.99 for a Home Premium upgrade or $99.99 for an upgrade to the professional edition. Pre-orders in UK, Japan, France, and Germany will run from July 15 to August 14.