Microsoft Is Not Delaying Vista Again as Beta 2 Looms

A Gartner research note this week warns that Microsoft "may" delay Windows Vista another two months. But in addition to an official denial from Microsoft, my sources say that the Gartner warning is off base.

Here's what really happened. Earlier this year, Microsoft granted Gartner unprecedented access to its internal processes, apparently in an effort to prove that the software giant was, in fact, on track to ship Vista by the end of 2006 as promised. Gartner, however, concluded differently and said that Microsoft would likely delay Vista because it's too complex to meet the scheduled late-2006 completion date. Gartner says it believes Microsoft won't be able to ship Vista until sometime between April and June 2007. Although the software giant quickly disagreed with this conclusion, it has been widely reported as fact.

Aside from my internal Microsoft sources, my own experience covering Microsoft suggests that Gartner is incorrect. According to Gartner, the reason for the delay is that Microsoft will soon ship Vista Beta 2 and the company will need 9 to 12 months after Beta 2 to complete the product. Windows XP, Gartner notes, took 5 months between Beta 2 and its final release, but Vista is more complex than XP. Gartner says that from a complexity standpoint, Vista is more comparable to Windows 2000, which required 16 months to progress from Beta 2 to the final version.

But that comparison is ludicrous. When Microsoft shipped Win2K Beta 2 in 1998, Win2K was still called Windows NT 5.0 and the product was horribly off track. Within months, the company assigned Brian Valentine to take over Win2K development, and he helped guide the project to its completion a year later. Vista today is much further along than was NT 5.0/Win2K Beta 2. And it's much closer to the shipping version of the product than the Gartner report suggests.

Granted, predicting another Vista delay is a fairly safe bet. Microsoft has already delayed Vista several times, and delaying it again from January 2007 to April or June 2007 won't make a big difference from a sales perspective. And after all, Microsoft has said Vista was on track before and then delayed the product. But nothing at present suggests that Microsoft is ready to delay Vista yet again. While Gartner could very well have seen something at Microsoft that caused it to believe the company is ready to delay the product once more, the aforementioned comparison with Win2K is bogus.

In related news, Microsoft continues work on Vista build 5381, which will be finalized as Beta 2 on May 22. Attendees of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2006 will receive Vista Beta 2 on DVD, and Microsoft plans to seed the build with testers, other partners, and millions of consumers via a widely distributed Community Preview Program (CPP) in the following days. If you've been waiting for a chance to get your hands on Vista, that day is finally coming.

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