The next version of Windows has already been the subject of a number of official statements from Microsoft, and the company has made no secret that it intends to cut the release cycle for its next operating system to around three years. However, the software behemoth hasn't made it clear exactly when the three-year development cycle started, leading some to pin the release in 2009 while others favor 2010.
Luckily, the folks at Softpedia have managed to coax a more definite answer from Microsoft about the subject. They quote an e-mail from the software company as saying, "We are currently in the planning stages for Windows 7 and development is scoped to three years from Windows Vista Consumer GA. The specific release date will be determined once the company meets its quality bar for release." In this case, the "GA" stands for "general availability," referring to Vista's January 30, 2007 public launch (and not the November 2006 enterprise launch).
In other words, Windows 7 is clearly scheduled to come out some time in 2010, presumably in the early part of the year. That schedule more closely reflects the consumer Windows release cycles from the 1990s, when Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and Windows 98 succeeded each other at roughly three-year intervals. The cycle was broken by the quick succession of Windows ME and Windows XP, followed by the five-year dry spell between the launches of Windows XP and Windows Vista.