* Microsoft releases code for new operating system
* PC makers can start producing Windows 7 machines
* On target for Oct. 22 launch date in stores
SEATTLE, July 22 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) said on Wednesday it is releasing the code for Windows 7 to PC manufacturers, keeping the software company on track to have machines running its new operating system in the stores by late October.
The move means Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N), Dell Inc DELL.O, Acer Inc (2353.TW) and other computer makers can start to load up new PCs, laptops and netbooks with the operating system, the successor to the unpopular Vista.
Both Microsoft and the manufacturers are hoping the full launch of Windows 7, scheduled for Oct. 22, will help lift PC sales out of the slump caused by the global economic downturn, and give the holiday shopping season an extra lift.
Manufacturers have been testing early versions of Windows 7 for several months, but this week marks the release of the “gold code,” according to a Lenovo Group Ltd (0992.HK) executive, referring to the software industry jargon for the finished product.
PC makers no longer have to fly discs in helicopters to their manufacturing plants, as the transfer is now done electronically. But it still marks a dramatic day as manufacturers hustle to get new products into stores in time for the release date.
Machines that have Windows 7 installed, or devices that are compatible with it, will simply have the Windows 7 logo on them, a Microsoft executive said. The company will not be splashing the word “capable” around in marketing efforts, after it received complaints at its last launch that some machines branded “Windows Vista Capable” could only run the lower-end versions of the software.
Few industry watchers expect such problems to hit Microsoft this time around as the company has spent more time making sure PCs will be able to run the new software. (Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)