According to Steven Sinofsky via his post on the Engineering Windows 7 blog, the version of Windows 7 that most everyone in the world is using will be the only beta, with the next release being Release Candidate.
The next milestone for the development of Windows 7 is the Release Candidate or ““RCÃ¢â‚¬Â. Historically the Release Candidate has signaled ““we’re pretty close and we want people to start testing the release, especially because all the features are done.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The obvious question is that we know the Pre-Beta was October 28, 2008, and the Beta was January 7th, so when is the Release Candidate and RTM? The answer is forthcoming. We are currently evaluating the feedback and telemetry and working to develop a robust schedule that gets us the right level of quality in a predictable manner.
More on the different release milestones for Windows 7:
* Pre-Beta Ã¢â‚¬” This release at the PDC introduced the developer community to Windows 7 and represents the platform complete release and disclosure of the features.
* Beta Ã¢â‚¬” This release provided a couple of million folks the opportunity to use feature complete Windows 7 while also providing the telemetry and feedback necessary for us to validate the quality, reliability, compatibility, and experience of Windows 7. As we said, we are working with our partners across the ecosystem to make sure that testing and validation and development of Windows 7-based products begins to enter final phases as we move through the Beta.
* Release Candidate (RC) Ã¢â‚¬” This release will be Windows 7 as we intend to ship it. We will continue to listen to feedback and telemetry with the focus on addressing only the most critical issues that arise. We will be very clear in communicating any changes that have a visible impact on the product. This release allows the whole ecosystem to reach a known state together and make sure that we are all ready together for the Release to Manufacturing. Once we get to RC, the whole ecosystem is in ““dress rehearsalÃ¢â‚¬Â mode for the next steps.
* Release to Manufacturing (RTM) Ã¢â‚¬” This release is the final Windows 7 as we intend to make available to PC makers and for retail and volume license products.
* General Availability (GA) Ã¢â‚¬” This is a business milestone and represents when you can buy Windows 7 pre-installed on PCs or as full packaged product.