Continuing its habit of dribbling out information about how it will make Windows 7 available to customers in the coming months, Microsoft on this week provided a few more details. The company also confirmed that it would offer 3-PC home licenses for Windows 7 Home Premium through a Family Pack, but only in certain (as yet unnamed) markets.

The schedule

Microsoft has provided the following Windows 7 availability information.

July 22. RTM, or "release to manufacturing," the date that Microsoft officially completed Windows 7.

July 24. PC makers and other Microsoft OEM partners will receive Windows 7 RTM software images.

"Shortly after RTM." People wishing to test the final version of Windows 7 Professional will be able to download an evaluation version of that version of the OS via the Springboard web site.

August 6. MSDN and Technet subscribers can download Windows 7 RTM in English.

August 7. Volume License (VL) customer with an existing Software Assurance (SA) license can download Windows 7 RTM in English via the Volume License Service Center (VLSC).

August 16. Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified members will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English.

August 23. Microsoft Action Pack subscribers will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English. Volume License (VL) customers with an existing Software Assurance (SA) license can download Windows 7 RTM in the remaining languages via the Volume License Service Center (VLSC).

September 1. Volume License customers without a SA license will be able to purchase Windows 7 through Volume Licensing (as previously announced).

October 1. Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified members will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in the remaining languages. Microsoft Action Pack subscribers will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in the remaining languages. MSDN and Technet subscribers can download Windows 7 RTM in the remaining languages.

October 22. Windows 7 will be made available via retail stores, online purchasing, and with new PC purchases. This is the so-called "general availability," or GA, date. (Previously announced.)

Windows 7 Family Pack

Regarding the Windows 7 Family Pack, Microsoft has now confirmed a number of details about this packaging. The Windows 7 Family Pack provides a Setup disc and three product keys for Windows 7 Home Premium, providing you with the ability to legally install the product on three PCs. It will cost just $149.99 in the US (C$199.99 in Canada), a significant savings over three Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade boxes. But here's where the catch comes: Microsoft says it is only offering the Family Pack "until supplies last." That's right, it's a temporary offer.

It gets worse. The Windows 7 Family Pack won't be offered at all in many markets, and in some others--like Europe--there apparently won't be a Family Pack offer until 2010. I haven't been able to confirm the full country listing for Family Pack as of this writing.

Windows 7 Family Pack retail packaging
Windows 7 Family Pack retail packaging

Final thoughts

I have recently railed against Microsoft's ability to effectively communicate when and how its various customer groups will gain access to Windows 7. This week's communiqu? actually does answer many of these questions, which is appreciated. And now that we have more information, especially about the Windows 7 Family Pack, the true picture of Windows 7's availability becomes a lot clearer.