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Does Microsoft already have a Windows 7 release candidate?

As millions of beta testers continue to experiment with Windows 7, news has surfaced this morning that they may, in fact, already have built Release Candidate 1.

It's a bit early to say with any certainty at this point, but heere's what we know so far.

The last Windows 7 build ISO to leak onto torrent trackers was 7022.Winmain.090115-1850, which appears to have a timestamp of January 15, 2009 4:50PM. Following that leak, screenshots appeared of another build: 7032.0.winmain.090129-1812 (January 29, 6:12PM).

This morning, Softpedia has reported that the newest leak contains an interesting addition to the file name:
7048.winmain_win7rc1.090211-1625. While it's worth noting that the build was completed seven days ago, the more noteworthy change is the introduction of rc1 to the name.

Do those three characters mean Windows 7 is ahead of schedule? - the same place that leaked the Office 14 screenshots - has already reported that Microsoft is anticipating an April 2009 release for RC1. If it's ready sooner, things bode well for Microsoft who would no doubt like to ship Windows 7 in advance of the 2009 holiday season.

Tags: beta, osupdates, release-candidate, windows-7