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Windows 7 may ship next year says Gates

Windows 7 may be available earlier than expected according to Microsoft chairman; Windows XP to stay available later than planned

Bill Gates has said that Microsoft might ship the next version of its Windows operating system, Windows 7, as early as next year.

The new version of Windows was not expected to be ready until at least 2010, going on Microsoft's usual three year cycle for OS development, but according to Reuters, Gates said that Windows 7 would be available "sometime in the next year or so".

Gates, speaking in Miami at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank, made the comment about Windows 7 in response to a question from the audience. A follow up statement from Microsoft seems to suggest that Gates was refering to when a beta version might be available, saying that his comments were in line with Microsoft's usual development cycle and the release of beta versions before general availability.

Microsoft has also announced that it will extend the sale of Windows XP Home to cater to ultra-low-cost PCs (ULCPC).

XP sales were due to stop at the end of June this year, although Microsoft will now sell the operating system for ULCPCs until either end of June 2010 or one year after the launch of Windows 7, whichever is later.

The ULCPC segment has been growing, with increasing popularity of devices such as the Asus Eee PC, although these small form factor devices often lack the specifications to be able to run Windows Vista.

Michael Dix, general manager of Windows Client Product Management commented: "One thing we've heard loud and clear, from both our customers and our partners, is the desire for Windows on this new class of devices. We are enthusiastic about this category because it enables us to bring the benefits of Windows to more customers."

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