The next iteration of Windows is evolving at fast pace. With less than two months since the first and only beta was made public, it appears that a release candidate build has already been branched off of the main code tree and is being prepared for release as early as the end of this month to select testers.
Specifically, WinFuture.de claims that an RC1 build (presumably 7048) will be released privately sometime around February 27 to MSDN and TechNet subscribers as well as beta testers signed up on Microsoft Connect and participants of the Technology Adopters Program. There is no mention of a public release though some speculate it could arrive sometime in April.
It is clear that the software giant is at least aiming to get Windows 7 ready for prime time by the holiday season, perhaps even earlier, but they have yet to confirm any specific dates. Meanwhile, some are worried that Microsoft may be rushing the development of Windows 7, claiming that the company isn't taking their feedback seriously, even when filed through their private beta tester feedback channels.