After the guessing games of last week, it has been officially announced that Microsoft will definitely be issuing the final release candidate for Windows 7 next month.

The Windows 7 RC will go out to MSDN and TechNet professionals on 30 April and more widely on 5 May. After that, it's almost certain that the retail version will appear in the summer, probably in July.

Shares pick up

Although Microsoft announced a 32 per cent drop in quarterly profits this week, its shares rose when it became clear that the much-anticipated operating system would get an early release.

Also, fears about backwards compatibility for older pieces of software look to have been eased after leaks suggest Windows 7 will be able to emulate Windows XP.

Virtual XP too

Experts at SuperSite for Windows say XP Mode will come as a free download for users of the Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7.

Reportedly, it will offer a virtual workspace running XP with Service Pack 3 inside a container that remains separate from the rest of the OS.