Microsoft will have completed Windows 7 in just a week’s time, if the folks at Neowin have their facts straight. They quote both "sources close to the company" and prior reports from Wzor and GeekSmack, all of which suggest the new operating system will reach release-to-manufacturing status on July 13.
If that’s correct, Windows 7 will be complete and ready for mass consumption at that point. However, as Neowin points out, Microsoft still doesn’t intend to release the OS officially until October 22. That’s pretty standard procedure: Vista went gold on November 8, 2006, but it didn’t reach store shelves until January 30, 2007—also around three months later.
Since the RTM build should be identical to what comes in Windows 7 boxes on October 22, Microsoft probably won’t offer it in free, public test form like the release candidate. Still, Neowin says TechNet subscribers, MSDN subscribers, and other Microsoft partners will get their hands on the build for testing purposes. That should help ensure third-party software and drivers play nicely with the new OS come launch day.