"As we stated from the beginning of Windows Vista development, the quality of the product will always be our first priority. That said, Microsoft continues to target Windows Vista availability for volume license customers in November 2006 and general availability in January 2007, although the final delivery will be based on quality," Microsoft said in a statement announcing the release of RC2.
Microsoft (Quote, Chart) does not plan to make this release candidate widely available as it did with RC1. Instead, this build will go to a select number of Customer Preview Program (CPP) participants along with the TechBeta, TechNet, TAP and MSDN programs.
RC2 reflects the feedback from customers during RC1 testing, which started at the beginning of September. Microsoft is now in the spit and polish phase, where it wants reports of any issues not fixed from RC1, and compliance testing for third-party applications.
Microsoft has been largely firm in its promise to deliver Vista to business users before the year's end and to consumers in January. Of course, that comes after more than two years of delays in the first place.
It's last delay came in March, when the company slipped from the fourth quarter of 2006 to January 2007, thus missing the Christmas buying season.
Still, Vista's delivery date has been plagued with doubt. Gartner has said several times it expects Vista to be delayed until May 2007, either due to technical reasons or because of European Commission meddling.