Is Vista off to an early grave?

InternetNews.com is reporting that it has "learned" that Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) next operating system -- Windows 7 -- will hit the market by June according to the software giant's internal calendar, well ahead of the early 2010 release date that Microsoft has previously discussed.

The speculation is that a beta version may be out as early as next month. Microsoft will have plenty of time to work out the bugs if so.

The rush is understandable, given the market's negative reaction to Windows Vista. Microsoft tried to counter the onslaught, which has come mostly from Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) ingenious "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads, by putting out more optimistic consumer-conversion data and the clever Mohave Experiment campaign. The market, however, remains nonplussed. The Vista brand is already too far gone.

Another reason to hurry is that even longstanding partners are getting cold feet. Dell's (NASDAQ:DELL) new mini-laptops come in two operating-system flavors: Windows, or a cheaper $349 version powered by the Linux-propelled Ubuntu platform.

Open-source solutions aren't necessarily gold mines, save for companies such as Red Hat (NYSE:RHT) that are packaging solutions in commercial ways. However, the very existence of alternatives is problematic for Microsoft. History was on its side when it swatted away entrants such as IBM's (NYSE:IBM) OS/2, but the times they are a-changing.

With so many computing applications having moved to the Web -- such as Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Google Docs and salesforce.com's (NYSE:CRM) enterprise software -- operating systems are becoming less relevant. Cheaper open-source solutions make sense on the low end, while Apple continues to grow its market share by winning over high-end converts.

Microsoft has to be careful, though. There may be a pressing need to get Windows 7 out quickly, but it's more important for Microsoft to get this one right. It doesn't want another Vista on its hands.

A springtime launch may also explain why Microsoft recently started a $300 million ad campaign starring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. The ads have been building over the past week and have been pitching Microsoft instead of Vista.

So bring it, Microsoft. Vista unfairly got a bad rap, so make sure your next operating system launch is loud and sound. 

Other ways to go Windows shopping:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a Windows watcher. He owns no shares in any of the stories in this article. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.