Microsoft might release Windows 7 as early as next November, bloggers have speculated, pointing to postings on the company's own website and comments made by the CEO of netbook maker, Asus.

According to Long Zheng, who writes the istartedsomething.com blog, and Ed Bott, a well-known Windows blogger, clues point to a 2009 release of Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista.

Long noted that Microsoft's site for its upcoming Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), which opens on November 5 in Los Angeles, warns developers that this year's event will be the last before Windows 7's launch.

"Be one of the first to see what's new in Windows 7 and be among a select few to receive a pre-beta build of Windows 7," the Microsoft site reads. "WinHEC is the only chance for you to engage with the team at this level - there is not another WinHEC planned before Windows 7 is released."

WinHEC has been an annual affair since 1991, and has typically been held in April or May. Microsoft delayed the conference this year, however, pushing it back from that usual window to November.

Microsoft has not set a ship date for Windows 7, although executives have said their goal is to launch the operating system three years after the debut of Vista, which was released to businesses in November 2006 and to consumers and PC makers in January 2007. Analysts have typically interpreted Microsoft's broad timetable to mean that Windows 7 will ship in the second half of 2009 or in early 2010.

If Microsoft didn't unveil Windows 7 until 2010, that would mean it would be skipping a WinHEC event during 2009, a first.

Bott, meanwhile, pointed to a story in Laptop magazine that quoted Jerry Shen, the CEO of Asustek Computer, also known as Asus, who said his company would move from Windows XP straight to Windows 7 as a choice for the Eee PC "netbook" line. Shen pegged Windows 7's release date as the second half of next year.

"We don't plan on putting Vista on any of the Eee PCs," Shen told the publication. "I think in the future, in the second half of next year, we will put Windows 7 on Eee PCs."

Computerworld blogger Mike Elgan has also said that Asus plans to unveil touch-screen laptops early in 2009 that would, when Windows 7 is released, take advantage of that operating system's support for a multi-touch user interface.

Last month, after Microsoft announced that it would hand out alpha versions of Windows 7 at both WinHEC and its Professional Developers Conference (PDC), scheduled for next week, Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said that it was a good, though not sure, bet that the company is on track for a late 2009 or early 2010 launch.

"We now know they're making progress," Cherry said then. "They at least have something they're confident enough in to share. But the next question is, how far along is it? And we won't know that until people load it up."

At the time, he also noted that although Microsoft slates PDC based on software releases - which means the events aren't on a set schedule - WinHEC is an annual affair.