Microsoft has just confirmed that its Windows 7 operating system will launch in time for the holiday shopping season - not that you should act surprised or anything. Previously, the company's official stance was that Windows 7 would be available roughly three years after the general availability of Vista, but steady development coupled with numerous rumors and leaks suggested its launch could come a bit earlier than expected. An update on the server side, Windows Server 2008 R2, will also be available at the same time.

The software giant already published a Release Candidate build of Windows 7 last week, signaling that it is close to a final release of the product, and so far the buzz about the forthcoming operating system has been generally positive. If Windows 7 does indeed ship months before Microsoft's self-imposed deadline, it'll be good news for the company, which is hoping to restore its reputation after the negative reaction to Windows Vista, and to the PC industry as a whole since it could help boost sales stalled by the recession.

Microsoft also said it plans to release an invite-only technical preview of Office 2010 in July. If you're interested in testing the next release of Office, you can register for the program over at the Microsoft Office 2010 Technical Preview Registration page, or wait until this summer for a public preview.