Microsoft developers will be able to download a near-final version of the company's Windows 7 operating system next week.

From 30 April, MSDN and TechNet subscribers will be able to download the Windows 7 Release Candidate, Microsoft said in a blog post. Release candidates are typically feature-complete and stable, and suggest that the final version of a product will be available very soon.

The company recently posted information accidentally on its Partner Program website saying that the Release Candidate was already available to developers and would be released to the general public on 5 May. That page was quickly pulled because the software was not yet ready.

In its blog post Friday, Microsoft has now confirmed that the general public will be able to download the release candidate on that date.

Analysts have been predicting lately that the final release of Windows 7 will appear sooner than expected. Officially, Microsoft said that it was on track to deliver Windows 7 three years after the release of Vista, which was in January 2007, but some analysts speculate that it could be available in September or October this year.