A couple of people emailed me in private to ask the timeline for ICANN’s gTLD program rollout. I did a search, and I was able to find a pdf with the scheduled timeline (ICANN pdf). Keep in mind that the schedule was published at ICANN 41 in Singapore, which was held in June of 2011.
The next major date for the gTLD program is January 12, 2012. On January 12, the application window opens for interested parties who wish to apply for a gTLD. I would imagine that companies who apply for the same TLD will be encouraged to work together to form a joint entity application or work something out. I would also imagine there will be deals cut to try and reduce the number of applications for the same TLD.
Following the application period, the next important date on the gTLD calendar will be April 12, 2012 when the application window closes. The timeline suggests that applications will be published as soon as 15 days after this window has closed, although it may take longer to do so. I am not sure if the applications will be published publicly or just for the internal ICANN community.
The timeline is a bit vague after that, but it gives you an idea about the initial process.
I would not be surprised to see politicking in an effort to delay the program, but as of right now, it looks like things are set to go as planned.