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Windows XP may hit small speed bump

Though it's full-steam ahead on Office XP, the software juggernaut is running a bit behind with Windows XP, testers say.

As Microsoft charges ahead toward delivering Office XP by midyear, it is falling a bit behind on meeting its Windows XP targets, according to testers.

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A sneak peek at Windows XP
Jim Allchin, group VP, Microsoft
Although it is common for software companies to miss their internal release schedules, many customers and business partners still look to these schedules for planning purposes. That's particularly true in Microsoft's case.

The software giant has earned a notorious reputation over the years for missing its release targets. And it looks as if it will be business as usual for Windows XP, which is the successor to Windows Millennium Edition and Windows 2000 Professional, formerly code-named Whistler.

But Office XP, the product formerly known as Office 10, seems to be more on track, testers said.

Microsoft announced earlier this month that it plans to brand the 2001 versions of its flagship Windows and Office products with the XP moniker. XP stands for "experience" and is intended to help differentiate the forthcoming Web-enabled versions of the products from the current versions of Windows 2000 and Office 2000.

Various Web sites that closely track Windows developments reported over the weekend that Microsoft is preparing to deliver within days a near-final beta of the next version of Office for Windows, which the company recently designated Office XP. Testers corroborated those reports.

"We've just received word that Microsoft is preparing their release of the Corporate Preview Beta (RC 1) to the public," read a notice posted Tuesday on the ActiveWin site.

ActiveWin added that some testers already have received "Corporate Preview Beta" packages, which are set to expire in August 2001.

Microsoft declined to comment on RC 1 availability. A spokeswoman reiterated, however, that the company is on track to deliver the final, shipping version of Office XP by June.

The same may not be true on the Windows XP side of the house.

While testers expected Microsoft to deliver the eagerly awaited Beta 2 version of Windows XP before the end of February, and possibly as early as Feb. 19, it now seems that Beta 2 will not be released until mid-March.

A posting on the WinInfo Windows enthusiast site quotes from what it claims is an internal e-mail message from a Windows program manager to the rest of the Whistler team. The message notified the team that they were not meeting their internal goals, resulting in a two-week postponement of the release of Beta 2.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment on any beta release dates for Windows XP, saying only that the company is on track to deliver Beta 2 in the first quarter of 2001. Microsoft still plans to ship the desktop versions of Windows XP for consumer and business users before the end of 2001, she said.

The spokeswoman also would not confirm the authenticity of the memo.

Some testers were surprised that Microsoft wasn't ready to pull the trigger on Windows XP, given that company executives called last week's press and analyst Windows XP preview its "Windows XP launch."

"Microsoft probably wanted to include more bug fixes and improve some additional features for Beta 2, and they needed the two-week period to accomplish that," speculated one Windows XP tester who requested anonymity.

Another tester had a harsher assessment as to what's holding up Beta 2.

"It's still pretty buggy, the help is still missing, and beta tester feedback has been pretty negative regarding the 'cartoony' look of the new UI (user interface)," said the tester, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The tester added that he happened to like the new, streamlined "Luna" interface that Microsoft showed off at the Windows XP preview in Seattle last week.

The WinInfo site noted that Microsoft needs to adhere fairly closely to its Windows XP timetable to be able to get PC makers to preload the operating system release on new computers in time for the 2001 holiday season. Typically, once Microsoft delivers "gold," or final, Windows code to PC makers, another few weeks to two months is required to get the software preloaded onto the machines.