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Microsoft Vista late -- but why?

Microsoft says its successor to XP, Windows Vista, won't reach consumers until January 2007 -- but why is it late? We take a brief look at the history of its development

When Microsoft announced it would be delaying its Windows Vista operating system until January 2007, we weren't sure whether to react with anger, surprise or indifference based on its extensive catalogue of launch indiscretions.

By the time Vista is released (assuming it stays on its new schedule) it will have been in development for nigh on seven years. But what's the story behind the delays? Is Microsoft taking time to get things right; is it trying to be fashionably late; or is the whole thing a complete lateness balls-up that would make the rebuilding of Wembley Stadium look like a well-oiled machine?

Okay, so it hasn't taken as long to develop as the Great Pyramid of Giza (which claims the longest development time for any human endeavour -- 20 years), but it's been a long old stretch in anyone's book. By comparison, the original version of Windows took a mere three years to complete, and even that modest delay caused much mirth.

Some may applaud Microsoft for taking its time to iron out the types of kinks that have plagued XP. Others may shift the blame to manufacturers, who are said to have asked Microsoft to delay the release of Vista because they had insufficient time to test and prepare their systems.

Whatever the case, it's clearly rather unfortunate for everyone involved, as neither Microsoft nor any PC manufacturers will have wanted to miss out on the lucrative Christmas period that would surely have been an enormous sales catalyst.

Let's take a walk down the Vista delay memory lane:

July 2001
Vista, aka Project Longhorn, is first announced prior to the launch of Windows XP. Microsoft claims it will ship in late 2003 between XP and 'Vienna' -- Longhorn's eventual successor.

April 2002
Microsoft shows example videos of Longhorn in use in order to illustrate some of its key features. Dozens of fraudulent Longhorn details, screenshots and videos subsequently litter the Internet.

May 2003
Microsoft reveals a roadmap for Longhorn -- said to be the most important update to the Windows product line since Windows 95. Will Poole, senior vice president of the Windows Client Division says Longhorn is a "huge, big, bet-the-company move". The final release date is set as 2005.

August 2004
Longhorn development is overhauled. The OS will now be based on the Windows Server 2003 codebase. Many of its original features are dropped and replaced with those intended for Vienna.

Winter 2004
Many Longhorn developers are pulled off the project to focus on the development of Windows XP Service Pack 2. Development suffers as a result.

July 2005
Microsoft announces Longhorn's official name. It almost chooses 'Windows Seven' as the official name, but opts for 'Windows Vista' due to the greater emotional punch.

September 2005
Microsoft begins releasing regular Community Technical Previews (CTP) to beta testers.

February 2006
Vista deemed 'code-complete' with release of build 5308 CTP. The remainder of the work is said to focus on improving stability, performance, compatibility and documentation.

March 2006
Vista delayed until 'January 2007'. World reels in shock. -RR