Microsoft said it still plans to finalize the code this year--a stage known as releasing to manufacturing--though the launch event for the product may not come until next year.
"The odds are the launch will be in 2008, but we haven't signed up for a specific launch date," said Ward Ralston, a senior technical product manager in Microsoft's Windows Server group.
Businesses will be able to download the code once Microsoft releases it to manufacturing, though most enterprises go through a fairly lengthy testing process with new server releases. Server makers set their own schedule for adding the software onto new systems. Ralston said that the company feels it is on track with the product and is looking to get a broad array of testers to try out the new test version, Beta 3.
"We're trying to get as many testers as we possibly can get," Ralston said. The first two beta versions and other community technology preview versions have been released only to select testers, which include some of Microsoft's early adopter customers, developers and internal Microsoft users.
Beta 3, like a recently released private test version, is "feature complete," Ralston said, including new featuressuch as the PowerShell command line interface and several new server roles. Microsoft to developers last May. The next milestone, after Beta 3, would be a near-final "release candidate" version, Ralston said.
One analyst said recent test builds of the product appear to be in remarkably good shape. "I'm very impressed with how stable it is," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Michael Cherry. Cherry said it was important that Microsoft has been able to add in PowerShell, noting that Microsoft has many technology initiatives, some of which have been slow to find their way into products.
Not everyone is convinced the product will be wrapped up this year, however. Even with Microsoft shipping the broadly available beta, Gartner analyst John Enck said that his firm believes there is a 40 percent chance Microsoft will release the software to manufacturing this year and a 60 percent chance it won't happen until next year.