Microsoft has confirmed that there will be no Windows 7 Beta 2, with the company's next desktop operating system (OS) moving straight from beta to a release candidate.

No firm release date has been announced for Windows 7 release candidate 1 (RC1), although Microsoft is expected to launch a final version of the OS by the end of 2009.

"This is in no way an announcement of a ship date, change in plans or change in our previously described process," insisted Steven Sinofsky, the senior vice president in charge of the Windows engineering group, said Sinofsky on a company blog.

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"At this milestone, we will be very selective about what changes we make between the Release Candidate and the final product, and very clear in communicating them. We will act on the most critical issues," he said. "The point of the Release Candidate is to make sure everyone is ready for the release and that there is time between the Release Candidate and our release to PC makers and manufacturing."

Microsoft has hinted that as there will be no Windows 7 Beta 2, there will be no Windows 7 RC2, with the OS moving straight from RC1 to release.

The free public Windows 7 beta is available until February 10, after Microsoft cancelled plans to remove it from the Windows 7 download site on January 24.

Those interested in trying out Windows 7 now have until February 10 to start the download, but downloads have until February 12 to be completed. No one will be able to begin downloading the Windows 7 beta after February 10, Microsoft said.

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