Exclusive: Microsoft Delays Vista Beta 2 to Late May and RTM to October 25, 2006

Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it wouldn't be able to deliver Windows Vista in time for the 2006 holiday sales season. My sources now tell me that the company plans a release to manufacturing (RTM) for Vista on or before October 25, 2006, approximately two months later than the previous shipment schedule. And the company has delayed the next major Vista milestone, the Beta 2 release, from April to late May 2006.

The official announcement contains none of these details. In its statement, Microsoft said simply that it would ship the volume- licensed, business-oriented versions of Vista in November 2006 and the consumer-oriented versions in January 2007. The company curiously blamed this latest delay on its computer industry partners. "Product quality and a great out-of-box experience have been two of our key drivers for Windows Vista, and we are on track to deliver on both," Co- President of Platform Products and Services Jim Allchin says in the statement. "But the industry requires greater lead time to deliver Windows Vista on new PCs during the holidays. We must optimize for the industry, so we've decided to separate business and consumer availability."

Additionally, there is a new Vista roadmap. The Beta 2 release, previously scheduled for April, has been delayed until late May. Vista, formerly code-named Longhorn, has been delayed repeatedly in the past few years. The Windows XP successor was originally supposed to ship in 2003.

Microsoft Offers EU Concessions

In a bid to avoid fines of roughly $2 million a day, Microsoft on Wednesday agreed to take further steps to comply with the European Union (EU) antitrust sanctions. Specifically, the company is offering to provide free unlimited support to any of its competitors that license the server technology documentation, which the EU forced Microsoft to provide.

"In addition to unlimited technical support, Microsoft is further augmenting the program by offering on-site assistance to licensees," a Microsoft statement reads. Antitrust regulators at the European Commission (EC) reacted favorably to the news, though they also noted that Microsoft had failed to alert them to the change before announcing it publicly.

The EC also noted that this change might not be enough to bring Microsoft into compliance. Previously, the EC had complained that the documentation Microsoft provided was essentially useless. "Technical support is only helpful once the documentation has reached a certain quality standard," an EC spokesperson said. "The Commission's preliminary view is that the technical documentation still does not comply with the requirements of the decision."

Microsoft pledged to meet the EU's requirements. "We will leave no stone unturned to overcome the compliance impasse," Microsoft General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez said.