The software maker now plans to finish the code for the revamped Office suite by the end of the year, rather than in October, the date it
"Based on internal testing and the beta 2 feedback around product performance, we are revising our development schedule to deliver the 2007 system release by the end of year 2006, with broad general availability in early 2007," a Microsoft representative said in an e-mail. "Feedback on quality and performance will ultimately determine the exact dates."
It was not immediately clear how the Office delay would affect Microsoft's Vista plans or a potential joint product launch. Many outsiders have already said they expect the Windows update to also be delayed beyond January, but Microsoft has yet to acknowledge a further delay.
"We are assessing the impact this timing change will have to our specific launch plans," a Windows unit representative said, adding that Microsoft is "still targeting January for general consumer availability."
Gartner analyst Michael Silver noted that the delay in Office could hit some businesses hard, particularly those that signed volume license contracts in late 2003. Such Enterprise Agreement or Software Assurance contracts offer, among other things, the right to any new versions of the product that come out over a period of time, typically three years.
Video: Microsoft Office 2007 beta 2
Changes in Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook
"Each month they miss is another group of customers that renewed EA or SA in 2003 that got no new version of Office for their payments," Silver said. "It was just March when Microsoft emphatically stated that Office 2007 would be on the October price list. Even at close range, they can't forecast this stuff."
Microsoft said that the final delivery of both Office and Vista will be dependent on the code reaching certain quality levels. It said it expects to release the first, near-final release candidate of Windows Vista in the third quarter of this year.
Microsoft said earlier Thursday that it had nearly reached its self-imposedbeta, with plans to stop allowing new downloads after Friday. In addition to the publicly available beta 2 version of Office, Microsoft this week of the software.