Microsoft has been very shy about pinpointing the Windows 7 release date in the past, but a recent presentation given at the company’s WinHEC conference pretty much confirmed the software giant plans to have the operating system ready by the middle of next year – and on store shelves for holiday season 2009.

The company is trying to avoid the PR damage that would come with missing a deadline; so officially, Windows 7 is still slated to ship within three years of the January 2007 consumer release of Windows Vista. However, proof of how the next major Windows release is on a fast-track schedule is that the company already handed out a pre-beta at PDC 2008 late last month, and said it will ship a beta version early next year followed by only one release candidate.

Granted, the OS still needs some polishing here and there, but Windows 7 is a straightforward update from a technical standpoint since it is essentially built on the foundation of Vista but with some important enhancements centered on speed, usability and memory use. Here’s hoping the company can avoid past mistakes and have the operating system ready to roll in time for the holiday season 2009.