I'm having a hard time believing that Microsoft is going to wait until its unofficial ship date of early 2010 to release Windows 7. Am I alone here? First, there was yesterday's news that Microsoft will reportedly offer free Windows 7 upgrades for buyers who purchase a Vista machine after July 1. Are we supposed to believe that customers will be promised something that they won't get for another six months? Will they even remember the free upgrade they received in the summer by the time they can actually get Windows 7 in January?Next reason: last night's CES (consumer electronics show) keynote speech (click here for video coverage from the IDG News Service). Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave an enthusiastic push for Windows 7 (not surprisingly there was nary a mention of Vista) and explained how it will be an integral part of Microsoft's vision for the next few years. A lively Windows 7 demo followed, displaying new user interface features and clarifying how Windows 7, Windows Live and Windows Mobile will soon be a united front. The big news from the keynote is that the Windows 7 beta 1 has launched and is available now for those who subscribe to the MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) or TechNet services. Even better, the general public will be able to download the beta starting tomorrow (Friday, January 9). For instructions on how to download the Windows 7 beta, click here. Microsoft has a golden opportunity on its hands. It can simultaneously release a new fast and lean (or so they say) OS, tie it to its Windows Live search and online platform that is slipping behind Google, and sweep the embattled Vista under the rug. It should do this as soon as possible, not a year from now.Momentum is such an important thing -- in politics, sports and technology. Microsoft seems unusually confident about Windows 7, which implies to me that the OS is rock solid or damn close. You'd think Microsoft would want to take last night's momentum-building Windows 7 rally at CES and make it real by shipping in the summer or at least the fall. But early 2010? That amount of time could be a momentum killer.Do you think Microsoft should ship Windows 7 in 2009?