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Microsoft sets dates for Windows 7 release candidate

Software maker says it will issue the near-final version to developers starting next week, with a public release on May 5. A version has already been making the rounds on file-sharing services.

Microsoft said on Friday that it will distribute the near-final "release candidate" version of Windows 7 beginning next week.

Subscribers to Microsoft's MSDN and TechNet developer programs will get the code on April 30, with plans to make it broadly available starting May 5. The May 5 date matches one that was in a note briefly posted on Microsoft's Web site.

Build 7100 of Windows 7, the version presumed to be the release candidate, has been making the rounds on file-sharing services for the past day or so. The software maker has reportedly given the build to some early testers, though it has declined to confirm that.

The near-final release candidate version is expected to be the last public milestone before Microsoft finalizes the code for the new operating system. The software maker has refused to commit to launching the product before next January, but Microsoft has been aiming to get the product done so that it can find its way onto PCs sold during this year's holiday PC buying season.