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Get your new Windows 7 PC a few days early...maybe

Dying for a new desktop or laptop with a fresh, factory-installed copy of Windows 7 on it?

Dying for a new desktop or laptop with a fresh, factory-installed copy of Windows 7 on it? We all know the official start date for the Win 7 era is October 22, but some small custom PC makers are claiming they'll start shipping systems with the new OS as early as October 13.

Puget Systems, a custom PC maker in Seattle, says the following on its Web site:

Customers who place orders for a full personal computer system, and who select Microsoft Windows 7 as their OS of choice, will be immediately placed in queue for shipment which will begin in earnest on October 13, 2009.

According to tech news site Ars Technica, Puget was told by Microsoft that "the earlier date only applies to system builders that buy the operating system through distribution channels," meaning small PC makers, and not the big OEMs like Dell and HP.

However, Puget and other custom PC makers may be a bit too optimistic. A Microsoft spokesperson explains, "October 12 is the date that Microsoft enables our Authorized Replicators to begin shipping Windows 7 to Microsoft OEM Authorized Distributors... So, while in theory a System Builder could get Windows 7 product pre-GA (general availability), based on supply chain analysis, the intended timing for customers to receive Windows 7 PCs from System Builders should be close to GA, on October 22nd."

That means the copy of Windows 7 on your system from a custom PC maker would leave the DVD replicating facility on October 12 and get shipped to a distributor, which would then send it to a company like Puget. After that, your system still has to get built, tested, and shipped. If one is very optimistic, this could get you hooked up a few days early, but realistically, this puts you in the same general October 22 ballpark as everyone else.

But if you're determined to be the first person on your block with a Windows 7 PC, all is not lost. While the official release date of October 22 is a Thursday, we've heard from several sources that certain big brick-and-mortar retail stores are going to start advertising Windows 7 systems in the weekend newspaper circulars that hit on Sunday, October 18.

The implication is, if you drop by a retail store that Sunday, there's a good chance they'll have Windows 7 versions of some laptops and desktops in the store already, and there's a good chance you'll be able to walk out with one.