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Gartner: Expect Further Vista Delay

IT research firm Gartner Group is predicting Microsoft will need several more months to test Windows Vista before it's ready to be released.

However, the formulation for that prediction is based on Microsoft's past missteps, not specific problems in the ambitious and long-delayed operating system.

In a report titled Windows Vista Unlikely to Ship Before 2Q07, Gartner said it did not think Vista, which is expected to be released at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle later this month, would be ready before the second quarter of next year.

The conclusion is based on how things went with past OS releases. It took 16 months for Microsoft to ship Windows 2000 after its second beta, which was a very troubled release.

Windows XP took only five months to go from Beta 2 to final code. Windows XP, the report noted, was not as ambitious as Windows Vista, which made the testing cycle easier.

Michael Silver, vice president of client platforms at Gartner and co-author of the report, said the latest builds are better than earlier ones, but his conclusions are based on the amount of testing that needs to be done.

"This release is a whole lot more complex than Windows XP and 2000. So how will it take them less time to test a more complex product?" he said.

Even though Windows Vista uses the same kernel at the heart of NT 4, Windows 2000 and Windows XP, it's been heavily modified to accommodate new technologies. The User Access Control in Vista goes into the core of how apps are run.

So while there are some similarities to NT 4, Windows 2000 and Windows XP, Microsoft is making enough changes to make it problematic, said Silver.

"This isn't just a new layer on top. They are going down to the kernel and making significant modifications down there. If they weren't doing that, this thing would have shipped three years ago," he said.

Gartner doesn't engage in application testing but has spoken to clients.

"They haven't done massive testing because the code is still changing, so they can't trust that they won't have to redo all of that," said Silver. "That again leads us to believe Microsoft will see more issues [after Beta 2] than one would expect."

Nate Mook, editor-in-chief of Betanews.com told internetnews.com that he was a lot more pessimistic earlier this year, but recent builds have given him confidence that Microsoft will make its year-end deadline.

"Yes, Vista has been slow at getting to a state where it's usable for testing purposes," he said. "I think if the latest interim build is any indication, we will be there by the time Beta 2 comes out. There has been a big step forward from builds coming out earlier this year.

Mook said it's not fair to compare Vista to Windows 2000 because Windows 2000 was a very troubled release and wasn't even workable at the time of Beta 2. "What we're going to see with Vista Beta 2 will be something more polished, something more ready to go to the public," he said.

Mook also said Microsoft has learned its lesson on shipping an ambitious operating system since the disastrous Windows 2000 launch.

"They've changed the beta process for Vista. The CTP process has allowed beta builds to get into testers hands a whole lot more frequently. It really does seem like Microsoft has a handle on where this is headed," he said.