Microsoft has released what it believes will be the last test version of Windows Vista before the product is released to manufacturing.
The company made Vista Release Candidate 2 (RC2), or build No. 5744, available to participants of its Customer Preview Program, as well as to TechBeta, TechNet, Technology Adoption Program and MSDN members.
The previous test release of Vista, RC1, received "excellent feedback" from the estimated 3 million people who tested it, according to Microsoft. The company is using that to put the finishing touches on the overall quality and performance of the OS, it said.
Microsoft said that it is still on target to release Vista to business customers next month and consumers in January 2007, though the company continues to give itself an out to miss those dates by saying that the quality of the product is its highest priority. The release of Vista has already been delayed several times.
Still, leading financial analyst Rick Sherlund of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a research note this week that he believes all indicators point to a timely release for Vista.
"We had been skeptical of the launch schedule after Beta 2 shipped with problems in May, but the team seems to be making great progress in addressing issues of performance, reliability and compatibility," he wrote in his note.
Sherlund also said in his report he expects Microsoft will soon be releasing discount coupons for Vista to customers who purchase PCs that are capable of running Vista before the OS is available. Microsoft has confirmed it has plans to do this, but has officially remained mum on the time frame.
However, in his report Sherlund wrote that Goldman Sachs has recently updated its financial outlook for Microsoft based upon both a timely release date for Vista and the imminent release of upgrade coupons.