Windows 7 already is being reviewed by U.S. government technical appointees, something many Microsoft executives probably couldn't have much imagined happening a year ago.\n\n\n\nUnder the terms of Microsoft's November 2001 Justice Department settlement and final court judgment issued about a year later, a government-sanctioned "Technical Committee" has overseen Windows development. The TC is responsible for ensuring that Microsoft complies with the terms of the final judgment, investigating complaints about Microsoft abuses and regularly reporting on the company's compliance.\n\n\n\nThe TC required some changes before the operating system's release. Each quarter, the Justice Department, Microsoft and states' attorneys general file a joint "status report," largely based on the TC's activities. The process should have mostly ended on Nov. 12. But Google (and some other Microsoft competitors) requested an extension, and U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly gave it to them: two more years of government oversight.\n\n\n\nSo Microsoft finds itself in the uneasy position of having the TC look over its shoulder during Windows 7 development. Don't get too close, TC, because Microsoft has a big body bubble—that invisible surrounding comfort zone. On June 17, the day I went out of blogging service because of a catastrophic hard drive crash, Microsoft and government trustbusters filed a new status report. So I'm blogging a day late and a couple gigabytes short. From the document:\n\n\n\nMicrosoft has recently authorized TC access to another early build of Windows 7 (the successor to Vista), which the TC will review. As the builds of Windows 7 progress, the TC will conduct middleware-related tests in an effort to assure that bugs fixed in Vista do not reappear in the next operating system, as well as to assure final judgment compliance generally.\n\n\n\nThe evaluation is revealing. It's my contention that Microsoft plans to ship Windows 7 for holiday 2009—rather than in 2010 as some pundits surmise—and release a developer preview in October (to coincide with the Professional Developer Conference). The TC evaluation fits nicely with such a release timetable.