As I've previously reported, Microsoft had planned to ship a variant of Windows Vista build 5381 as Beta 2, the version that the company will be delivering to millions of consumers later this month. However, problems with build 5381 have changed those plans somewhat, along with the schedule for getting Beta 2 into the hands of users. Last weekend, Microsoft surprisingly issued a variant of build 5381 to testers after previously noting that it wouldn't ship any more interim builds before Beta 2.

Now, Microsoft plans to release a DVD of Vista Beta 2 and Office 2007 Beta 2 to attendees of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) on May 23. Meanwhile, users who wish to obtain a DVD version of Beta 2 via the company's public Web site will have to wait until May 27. Microsoft expects to eventually deliver this version to millions of people.

When asked about the delivery of Beta 2, the company didn't offer any specifics. "We're on track to deliver Beta 2 this quarter, as promised," a Microsoft representative told me. Sources tell me, however, that part of the push behind Beta 2 will be aimed at dispelling rumors propagated by Gartner that Microsoft will delay Vista beyond January 2007. To that end, the software giant will be heavily promoting Beta 2 to users so they can see for themselves how refined Vista has already become.

As for build 5381, Microsoft had iterated through several point releases for that version and finally moved on to subsequent builds. Last weekend, Microsoft shipped build 5382 internally, and it expects to ship build 5383 early next week. Now I'm told that a build 5383 variant (perhaps 5383.5) will likely be declared as Beta 2 sometime late next week. Concurrently, Microsoft is working on post-Beta 2 (or release candidate 1--RC1) builds of Vista as well. Those builds are in the 542x range, my sources say.