Sources at the company told me this week that Microsoft will soon delay the release of Windows Vista Beta 2 from December 7, 2005 to sometime in January or February 2006. However, because the Vista development schedule is extremely time constrained, the company will try and make up lost time by eliminating one of the planned release candidate (RC) milestones that were planned for later in the process.

A Microsoft representative told me that the company remains on track for shipping Windows Vista in the second half of 2006. "We are on schedule and committed to shipping on time and ensuring a high-quality product," I was told. "Microsoft sets internal targets for the development team around milestones, but these are not commitments to specific dates.  We do not comment on these internal milestones and we have not announced a specific timeframe for our next major Windows Vista milestone. "

"That said, customers have told us repeatedly they prefer more frequent code drops through our Community Technology Preview (CTP) program \[which\] provides a great avenue for real time feedback and testing from our customers--feedback we formerly received only through the beta process.  You should expect Microsoft to continue their focus to deliver CTPs in the coming months given how successful this program has been."

Previously, sources had revealed to me that Microsoft would at least delay the release of Windows Vista Beta 2 until late December. This more recent delay suggests that the company is having a difficult time meeting its internal shipping criteria for Beta 2, which is considered a major milestone release and will be made widely available to testers and the public. It's not known at this time whether the delay will affect related product releases such as Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 Beta 2 and Windows Media Player 11 Beta 1, both of which were also originally set for a December 7 public release.