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Microsoft: Server version of Windows 7 this year

In another sign Windows 7 is on track for release this year, the head of the Windows Server unit says the server operating system based on Windows 7 will ship in 2009.

SAN FRANCISCO--Windows Server boss Bill Laing said in an interview Friday that the server version of Windows 7 will ship this calendar year.

Using a little bit of deduction, I'd say that means Windows 7 continues to be tracking ahead of schedule. Although Laing's comments referred to Windows Server 2008 R2 and not to the desktop version, server products traditionally ship after desktop operating systems based on the same code base, owing to greater testing needs.

"We've really been executing," Laing said, noting that although the R2 product is a relatively minor release for the server unit, it still packs more features than he would have expected a year and a half ago.

As was the case with Windows 7, Microsoft shipped a beta version of the server update in January, after sharing it with some early customers in December. The next version, a release candidate, is due soon. Laing wouldn't say whether it would ship by next month, as is being speculated on the desktop side of things.

"I'm not sure yet," Laing said. "It's not far away, but we don't have a final date yet."

Microsoft's desktop unit has tried to give itself a lot of wiggle room by not committing to launch Windows 7 this year, although it has been working toward that goal for months. I've heard that the company plans to finalize the code as early as June if all goes well with the release candidate.

A spokeswoman for the desktop Windows unit did not immediately have any update to Microsoft's longstanding official comment, which is that Windows 7 will ship by next January.

I chatted with Laing about a number of other topics during an hour-long meeting Friday, including prospects of a Sun-IBM merger, the sorry state of the server market as well as the story behind Microsoft's new version of Windows for cheap servers. I should have more on all that shortly.