Jim Allchin, co-president of Microsofts Platforms & Services Division, announced on March 21 during a conference call that Microsoft is now planning to roll out Windows Vista in two stages.
The business, volume-licensed versions of Vista will now ship in November 2006, as many expected. But the consumer, retail versions of Vista wont be ready until January 2007.
Until March 21, Microsoft officials had said Vista would be ready to ship in time for the holiday 2006 selling season.
The delay will likely impact PC makers who had been counting on preloading Vista on new PCs this fall.
Allchin attributed the decision to delay the retail versions of Vista to quality concerns.
"Product quality is the first priority. We wont compromise on that," Allchin said, reiterating his oft-repeated statement that product quality trumps all else when it comes to Windows.
When asked for further details, Allchin cited performance, drivers, testing and security as areas where Microsoft and some of its partners had concerns.
Microsoft is still planning to release the next test build of Vista, its "consumer Community Technology Preview" build, to an estimated 2 million testers sometime in the next quarter, Allchin said.
Microsoft had been telling testers to expect that CTP build in April. Lately, however, some partners said they heard Microsoft might not make that April date.
Microsoft is still on track to release the Vista code to manufacturing in 2006, however, Allchin said.
"We expect some to say that this [the next CTP build] was fine and why didnt they just ship this," Allchin said.
"We needed just a few more weeks," Allchin said. "Industry partners need quite a bit of time and certainty about that time."
Allchin downplayed the potential impact on Microsoft partners of the delay.
"Some partners will be impacted more than others," Allchin said. "To be clear, some [partners] wanted us to continue, but we wanted to think about the whole industry."
Allchin said that Microsoft is not changing its Vista forecasts, and is expecting the delay in retail availability to have little, if any, impact on revenue, as the company will still be delivering the product in the fiscal 2007 timeframe.