04:31 PM

Microsoft Unveils Vista RC2; Next Step, Shipping

Microsoft is "just around the corner" from "shipping this great product," says Jim Allchin, co-president of the Microsoft platforms group.

As expected, Microsoft on Friday rolled out Windows Vista Release Candidate 2 (RC2) to technical testers, and promised that the new build would soon be available to the public.

The new Build 5744 will be the "last interim release before the product is released to manufacturing," a company spokesperson said. In early September, when Microsoft took Release Candidate 1 (RC1) public, it told users that Build 5600 would be the one-and-only RC. Later, however, Microsoft began to lean toward pushing out another candidate to test additional changes.

"Since the release of Windows Vista RC1, Microsoft has continued to receive excellent feedback that is helping to improve the overall quality and performance of the product," the spokesperson said. Among the differences in RC2 are performance improvements, additional application compatibility, and more fit-and-finish polishing of the interface.

In a message to testers, Jim Allchin, the co-president of Microsoft's platforms group, said that RC2 boasts "thousands of quality improvements [over] Windows Vista RC1." He also urged testers to stay focused and keep reporting bugs. "We are just around the corner from RTM [Release To Manufacturing] and shipping this great product to the worldso please keep the feedback coming so we can hit the finish line."

Although RC2 has not yet been posted to a publicly accessible download site, as was RC1 and before that, Beta 2, it will, promised the Vista development team. In a blog entry, Nick White, a program manager with the launch group, said that participants in the Customer Preview Program (CPP) will be able to download the new code "very soon." As of Friday afternoon, it was available only to Technical Beta Testers, TAP Testers, and MSDN/TechNet subscribers.

Microsoft has pegged November as the launch of Vista for corporate customers, with retail PCs running the new OS on sale in January 2007. The company spokesperson said that Vista remains on that schedule's track, but again left wiggle room by saying "the quality of the product will always be our first priority."

This week, a well-respected Wall Street analyst from Goldman Sachs opined that Vista was making its dates, and would probably ship on Microsoft's targets. Microsoft's stock jumped $.57 the day of the analyst's announcement.

In trading just before the Friday bell, Microsoft shares were down 6 cents, to $27.86.

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