Exclusive Here Comes Windows Vista RC2 

Microsoft will ship the final prerelease version of Windows Vista on Friday and unexpectedly will name the new version Release Candidate 2 (RC2) Microsoft had stated earlier that it wouldn't ship an RC2 milestone release of Vista. But don't let the name fool you; RC2 is really just a standard interim build of Vista but unlike RC1 it won't be distributed to millions of users.

The RC2 build is 5743 and Microsoft is currently testing it internally. As with the previous interim build 5728, RC2 will go to beta testers Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet subscribers and a random limited number of Consumer Preview Program (CPP) members.

Although Microsoft wouldn't confirm the specifics of the release the company did corroborate that it's planning an upcoming interim Vista build. As we have previously discussed, Microsoft does plan to deliver more interim builds of Windows Vista before releasing the final product, a Microsoft spokesperson told me. The exact name of the build and the date of its release have not been announced.

This is the last build Microsoft will be making available to the public prior to release to manufacturing RTM. The RTM which had been expected to be on or before October 25 has been adjusted slightly. Now, the Vista launch window begins October 18 when Microsoft will begin testing the final planned build for RTM. But Microsoft doesn't expect to finalize the product until sometime between October 25 and November 8.

Internal documentation notes that each daily delay after October 25 comes at a price however. For each day past October 25 Microsoft will ship one less localized language specific version of Vista for the January launch. However, the company is prepared to do that to ensure that Vista's quality is high.

The internal documentation also notes that Vista still has more than 1400 bugs Microsoft's internal processes require this bug count to drop to 500 or fewer before the product can go into escrow for RTM. By comparison, Vista had more than 2470 bugs on September 22.

In related news Microsoft will be changing the product keys it uses for Vista after the product hits the RTM escrow phase. Consequently, users won't be able to use prerelease Vista product keys to install the RTM version. My understanding is that this change won't affect the RC2 release.

Microsoft Appeals EU Fine

Yesterday, Microsoft appealed the $356 million fine that the European Union (EU) imposed on the company in July. Microsoft had promised to appeal the fine which was imposed because of the company's inability to meet the requirements of a 2004 antitrust ruling against it.

"The deadline for the appeal was October 2," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "As we said in July, we would appeal the fines imposed on the company at that time."

The European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg says Microsoft faxed a copy of the appeal Monday to meet the deadline. The court is now waiting for the original to arrive.

This appeal is the second pending in Microsoft's ongoing legal drama in Europe. Microsoft has also appealed the original 2004 antitrust ruling which required the company to pay a $600 million fine release a version of Windows in Europe without Windows Media Player and release technical documentation about server interoperability to competitors Microsoft's inability to meet the last of those requirements led to the fine at the heart of this latest appeal.