Microsoft has given system builders the OK to start selling new computers with Windows 7 installed prior to its official launch date of October 22. According to Puget Systems president Jon Bach, Redmond has given his company permission to ship Windows 7 systems on October 13, a whole nine days early.

Not only is that before Windows 7's general availability, but it's well ahead of when large computer manufacturers will be shipping their first 7-based systems. Companies like HP, Dell and Acer won't be entering the scene until the 22 -- a definite, if only temporary advantage for the little guy. "We have a long line of customers who are waiting for Windows 7," said Bach.

Puget Systems has taken informal orders for new Windows 7 machines from about 50 customers, and as of today, the company is accepting pre-orders. Microsoft has yet to comment on the early availability of Windows 7 through system builders.