Last week, Bill Gates stirred up the waters a little bit by suggesting the next major Windows OS version would be available as early as next year. Though many welcomed the news of an OS refresh ahead of schedule (while bashing Vista at the same time), it appears that Windows 7 won’t be ready in its final version any earlier than 2010 – three years from Windows Vista’s rocky introduction to market.

Microsoft said Gates may have been referring to early trials or test versions of Windows 7, not the actual retail-ready product. Unsurprisingly, the company did not offer up any additional information related to the new operating system’s specific tools and features or how it will differ from Vista in terms of features and presentation.