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Microsoft gears up for Windows Server 2008 launch

Company reaches Release Candidate 1 stage and promises final version by February launch event. Microsoft also pledges $150 million in marketing to help spur demand.

Microsoft has reached another milestone on the road to the release of Windows Server 2008.

On Wednesday, the company made available the Release Candidate 1 version of the software and promised the final version will be ready in time for the product's February 27 launch. Microsoft plans to launch the product, along with SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, at an event in Los Angeles.

The event is themed "Heroes happen here" and is planned as a love fest celebrating all the work done by the IT crowd. The software maker also said it will spend more than $150 million worldwide to help market and build demand for the new products.

"This is the largest enterprise launch in our history, and both Microsoft and many of our industry partners are making a significant investment in a worldwide rollout," Microsoft Vice President Andy Lees said in a statement.

Microsoft originally planned to have the operating system completed by the end of the year, even pulling out some key virtualization features to try to meet that deadline. However, it announced in August that the product would not be finished until early 2008.