Exclusive to WinInfo: On Monday, Microsoft publicly reaffirmed its plan to ship a version of Windows Vista to businesses in November and to consumers in January. But behind the scenes, the company has had to devise a new plan for the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) version of the product after plans to use build 5520 for RC1 fell through.

Microsoft's public discussion about its Vista shipment schedule came from an unexpected source: Timothy Chen, the CEO of the company's greater China region. "As of now, the release schedule of Vista is unchanged," Chen told reporters Monday. "In a word, Vista for small businesses and consumers will be released late in the fourth quarter and late January." This announcement confirms a report published last week in WinInfo, which stated that Microsoft wouldn't bow to widespread public opinion that Vista couldn't be made ready in time for the planned November and January shipping dates.

Meanwhile, inside the software colossus, work continues toward an early September RC1 release for Vista. However, the build previously planned for RC1--build 5520--had two major problems, so Microsoft had to move on to a newer version--build 5536--for RC1. The company plans to ship build 5536 internally today, according to my sources.

Historically, Microsoft considers RC builds of software products as candidates for the final release. However, with Microsoft not planning to finalize Vista until sometime in October, it's clear that the Vista RC1 version--whatever the build number--won't be a true candidate for release. It should, however, be quite a bit more polished than the previous public milestone, Vista Beta 2.