Microsoft says Windows 7 is complete.
The software maker sent the final code for its next computer operating system to manufacturers Wednesday, and said it's still on track for an Oct. 22 launch. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
Mike Angiulo, a general manager in the Windows group, said in an interview that getting up and running on a Windows computer will be "a lot smoother" than it was when Windows Vista launched in 2007.
At the time, Microsoft boasted about the number of programs and devices that would work with Vista, but many PC users found their existing software, printers, scanners, cameras and other hardware didn't function after the switch.
Microsoft said one reason Windows 7 should be an easier launch is that at its core, the new version is a lot like Vista. If a company updated a product to work with Vista in the last few years, it should also work with Windows 7.
Windows 7 has also progressed in an orderly way, which means outside companies have had more time to make sure their products will work. Vista was plagued by changes to Microsoft's plans, leaving partner companies scrambling to keep up.
The new operating system will launch into a much tougher climate than Vista did. PC shipments are expected to fall this year for the first time since 2001, as the economic crisis has forced businesses to slash technology spending. Microsoft built in a way for companies to run older, Windows XP programs in Windows 7, in an attempt to avoid losing those corporate customers that skipped Vista altogether because critical software wasn't compatible.
Companies that have long-term agreements to buy Microsoft software in bulk will be able to download and start installing Windows 7 in a few weeks, Microsoft said.
Then starting Oct. 22, Windows 7 will come on new PCs, and will be available for people to buy separately and install on their existing machines.