Microsoft: Vista will ship when it's ready

Microsoft continues to give itself room to further delay the release of Windows Vista. At its annual Financial Analyst Meeting on Thursday, Kevin Johnson, co-president of Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division, said that while Vista development remains on track for now, Microsoft won't ship the OS until the company thinks it's ready.

"There is no data that says we're not going to make the November business availability," Johnson said, speaking to analysts and media on Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus. However, he said that the company continues to evaluate Vista "milestone by milestone" and will ship the product "when it's ready" rather than according to a hard and fast schedule.

Microsoft has said Vista will be available to business customers through volume licensing in November, with consumers getting the OS in January 2007. However, in reports following Microsoft's fourth-quarter earnings call last week, some financial analysts wrote that they are already counting on Vista's consumer release to slip further into 2007 and have adjusted their earnings projections to reflect this prediction.

That said, Johnson said the next milestone for Vista, Release Candidate 1, should be available before the end of September.

Vista, with its multiple versions, has "something for everyone," Johnson said, but Microsoft plans in particular to promote the purchase of its higher-end, or "premium" versions to consumers. Traditionally, higher-end versions do better among business customers than home users. "There is an opportunity for us to grow the premium mix," he said.

Premium versions of Vista include Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate.

Microsoft also is investing in ways to encourage customers in emerging markets to purchase genuine copies of Windows Vista as part of an overall campaign to prevent people from using counterfeit or pirated versions of Windows, Johnson said.

To achieve this goal, Microsoft is "putting more feet on the street" and is providing more training for channel partners, especially in emerging markets such as China, to help sell genuine copies of Windows, he said.

Microsoft also will continue to roll out a pay-as-you-go PC initiative called FlexGo it announced in May in emerging markets around the world, such as Brazil, Mexico, Russia, India and China. The company also has some country-specific initiatives -- such as working with Internet cafe owners in China and setting up Internet kiosks in rural areas in India -- to promote the use of genuine copies of Windows, Johnson said.

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