Microsoft has moved to deny rumours started by outgoing chairman Bill Gates last week that the replacement for Vista could be here by as early as next year.

Speaking at a corporate philanthropy seminar last week, Gates suggested that Windows 7 would be released “sometime in the next year or so”.

Given that Microsoft’s official policy is for its OS products to be given a three-year life cycle and that Vista was only launched at the start of 2007, a 2009 release for its successor would have meant a 12-month reduction in shelf life.

Early builds of Windows 7

However, in an email to Information Week, Microsoft has clarified the company’s position with a firm rebuttal of the 2009 rumour:

"We are currently in the planning stages for Windows 7 and development is scoped to three years from Windows Vista Consumer" a Microsoft representative said.

The spokesperson then went on to explain that Gates’ gaff could well be down to the fact that Microsoft tends to trial beta versions of new OS products before releasing a full consumer package:

"As is standard with the release of a new product, we will be releasing early builds of Windows 7 prior to its general availability as a means to gain tester feedback," the spokesman said.

Well, that’s that then. We’ve been told.