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Steve Ballmer casts shadow over exact Vista release date

By Simon Aughton

Posted on 25 May 2006 at 14:17

Steve Ballmer has warned that Windows Vista could be delayed beyond the scheduled January 2007 release date.

Speaking at the Tokyo launch of the second beta version of the long-awaited successor to Windows XP, the Microsoft CEO said that the launch date could be affected by feedback from beta testers, as well as the product release schedules of hardware makers.

Vista will be released in two phases, with the business version expected in November of this year. However the introduction of the consumer variants may now be held up, possibly to match PC makers' release schedules.

He added that Microsoft is discussing potential release dates with PC manufacturers.

'The other thing, frankly, which we are discussing with NEC and other hardware partners is when would they really like it - early January, late January, February - so it depends on when the next roll-over, the next turn of the machine cycle will be...'

However, having moved on to Seoul, Ballmer denied saying that the OS will be delayed, telling Reuters: 'I said yesterday Vista was on track to ship in the first part of next year January.'

But having missed the holiday buying season, he implied that the timing of the release is not the most important consideration.

'Certainly, when Windows Vista comes to the market next year, and it will be next year, we will make sure that we make a high quality product, ship a high quality product, when it's ready,' he said.

Earlier this month Microsoft was forced to deny a claim by research firm Gartner, which estimated that Vista may not ship until the April-June quarter of 2007.

'We remain on track to deliver Windows Vista Beta 2 this quarter, and to deliver the final product to volume license customers in November 2006 and to other businesses and consumers in January 2007,' a spokesperson said.

Any delay opens a window (sorry) of opportunity for Apple, which will unveil the next version of its operating system at its developers' conference in August. Mac OS X 10.5 is expected to trump many of the Vista features Microsoft has been trumpeting and - should these reports of delays prove accurate - may even ship first.

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