Exclusive Microsoft Overcomes Final Vista Hurdles Heads to RTM 

A week and a half ago online reports about an internal countdown clock at Microsoft verified my early 2006 report that the software giant was pushing for an October 25 Windows Vista release to manufacturing RTM date. But last week, Jim Allchin, co-president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division admitted that the company had run into a snag and that Microsoft wouldn't make its planned RTM date. As of today, however, Microsoft is back on track because it has a working Vista build in escrow.

In an interview with Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet last week, Allchin said that Microsoft wouldn't be able to release Vista to manufacturing by October 25.

"We are in pretty good shape," Allchin told Foley. "And there are still months before the January 2007 launch."

Allchin was alluding to an internal timetable that I previously reported on in WinInfo. He had told the Windows Division that Microsoft could afford to postpone Vista's RTM date to as late as November 8 and still meet its November and January launch dates.

"However, each delay comes with a price," Allchin said. "For each day past October 25, Microsoft will ship one fewer localized language specific version of Vista in the January launch."

I've found out that the source of Allchin's concerns was an unexpectedly buggy pre-RTM build of Vista. The previous Friday, Microsoft pushed Vista build 5824 into escrow hoping that the build could qualify as the final shipping version. But a catastrophic problem with the build destroyed any systems that upgraded from Windows XP requiring complete reinstallations. After several frantic days of trying to find the bug, Microsoft finally fixed the problem last Friday and reset escrow. On Friday, Microsoft internally released build 5840 which didn't include the bug. Testing over the weekend produced positive feedback.

Vista build 5840 includes a surprising number of brand new and final icons and a new set of final wallpapers including a default wallpaper that's a variation of the Aurora swoosh that Microsoft has been using as a Vista identifier since it announced the branding in July 2005. There aren't any major functional changes in this build.

Oh, and that internal countdown clock. Last week it was reset to count down to November 8, not to October 25. It's not clear, however, whether Microsoft will release Vista to manufacturing before November 8 and which if any language specific versions of Vista will be dropped.

The Show Must Go On: Microsoft Continues Halo Movie After Funding Falls Apart 

After a strange game of financial chicken with movie industry bigwigs, Microsoft has decided to pursue alternative financing for the upcoming Halo movie currently in preproduction. The movie will be based on the successful Xbox video game series.

Earlier this month Universal and 20th Century Fox attempted to refinance the funding and distribution of the movie just ahead of a key October 15 milestone date after which both studios would have been bound by the previous agreement. When Executive Producer Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Microsoft refused to meet the studios new terms, Universal and 20th Century Fox pulled out of the project, taking their money with them.

Jackson denied that soaring production costs were responsible for the disagreements. He said that reports of a $200 million budget were overblown and that Halo would cost just $128 million to make

In an online statement, Microsoft said over the weekend that it would simply finance the movie itself.

"We are disappointed that Universal and Fox wanted to significantly renegotiate the financial points of the deal," the statement reads. "But the Halo franchise is hugely popular and our goal remains the same to find a partner that shares our passion and will creatively collaborate with us to best represent the story and spirit of the Halo franchise. Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and the rest of the creative team are dedicated to ensuring the Halo movie becomes a reality. We are already in discussions with potential partners who recognize the value of the Halo brand and its appeal to consumers worldwide."