Gates: 20 Percent Chance of Vista Delay

Speaking at a forum in South Africa regarding a plan for Microsoft to make major technology investments in the country, Bill Gates said there was an "80 percent chance" Windows Vista would by ready for its planned January launch. He also had no qualms about delaying the OS further if necessary.

During his presentation in Cape Town, Gates explained that Microsoft was spending between $8 billion and $9 billion to build both Windows Vista and Office 2007, both of which are slated to debut early next year. More than 1,000 partners will spend 20 times that amount building products for Vista, he added.

With such a large investment in place, Gates said he wants to make sure Microsoft gets the new version of Windows right, noting, "If the feedback from the beta tests shows it is not ready for prime time, I'd be glad to delay it."

Microsoft recently announced a slight delay to Office 2007 based on feedback from beta testers. The new productivity suite was slated to be released to manufacturing in October and be made available to businesses in November ahead of a January launch.

Now, Microsoft says Office 2007 will be finalized by the end of the year, with a public release in "early 2007."

Windows Vista was given a similar timeframe for release, and Microsoft has yet to indicate plans to push it back despite concerns from testers and analysts that the operating system has quite a ways to go. Microsoft has been holding numerous chats with beta testers in order to gather feedback on major new features.

"Office 2007 appears to be quite far along in development. By comparison, Windows Vista is much rougher. Had this been a Windows Vista schedule adjustment, I would have cautioned about another delay, although I wouldn't be shocked if Windows Vista wasn't broadly available until March or April 2007," commented Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox.

Still, at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston this week, Microsoft says over 200 customers have deployed thousands of copies of Windows Vista Beta 2 in their production environments. The company also dubbed July 12 as "Windows Vista Deployment Day" in order to encourage partners to get acclimated to the new operating system before its launch.

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