Windows Vista: Could It Slip Again?

No sooner did Microsoft begin shipping Beta 2 of Windows Vista this week did the alarms go off worldwide: CEO Steve Ballmer, on tour this week in Asia, may have hinted at the "S word."

IDG News Service released a story wherein they quoted Ballmer as having said that the feedback from the Beta 2 testers will determine when Vista finally ships and, if necessary, Microsoft would slip the release date from next January. Whether a new slippage will occur, however, appears to be in the realm of speculation at this point.

Ballmer's comments came at a press conference during a visit to Tokyo. The IDG report quoted Ballmer as saying, "We think we are on track for shipping early in the year. We've talked about the month, but we get a chance to critically assess all of the feedback we'll get from this beta release then confirm or move [the launch date] a few weeks."

For many in the media, that was good enough for them. Ballmer had said it might, maybe, could slip again, depending on feedback from the broad consumer beta which is just about to begin. In an industry in which product shipment delays have always been endemic, that should be no surprise, if it does occur. However, with so much riding on Vista's arrival, any change in the wind is enough to start a stampede.

The company's spokespeople, however, say nothing has changed from previous pronouncements.

"We are targeting Windows Vista availability for volume license customers in November 2006 and general availability in January 2007...[although] the exact delivery date will ultimately be determined by quality, and the beta process is an integral part of assessing and improving this. We are also always listening to partners; partner feedback was one factor in our decision to target general availability in January. We'll continue to listen to them, which was Steve's point in Japan," said a prepared statement provided by a Microsoft spokeswoman.

Windows Vista Beta 2 semi-officially began this week when the company began handing out copies to attendees at Microsoft's 15th annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference.

After years of delays, Microsoft was set to ship Vista in November up until late March. At that point, the company admitted that Vista wouldn't make the Christmas selling season.

However, the telltale signs that the verdict would be slip instead of ship had already appeared by the time the company came clean. Rumors had abounded for weeks that, despite inaugurating a new testing process that relies more on so-called Community Technology Previews than on traditionally cadenced beta test releases, the project was falling further behind.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.