It's always a risky business to predict when Microsoft will ship a product, even for Microsoft.
That said, it is always interesting to know what the company hopes it can do in the coming months. Paul Thurrott, over at WinInfo has what he says are some recent internal schedules for several upcoming products, including Windows Vista, Longhorn Server and WinFS.
As for Vista, Thurrott said the internal target is December for a second beta. The first beta was released in July and Microsoft has said a more feature-rich beta is coming, but has yet to say when it will arrive. Microsoft is slated to ship a later Release Candidate 0 version on April 19 and a near-final Release Candidate 1 on June 28, according to the WinInfo report. The site says that the company will release Vista for manufacturing on Aug. 9 and have it broadly available by Nov. 15. That's consistent with Microsoft's public goal of having it widely available by next year's holiday buying season.
On the Longhorn Server front, things are still in sync with the client version at this point, but it faces a longer beta cycle given the additional testing needed with server releases. WinInfo says there will be an RC2 release of Longhorn Server on Oct 18 and that it will be released for manufacturing on Jan. 10, 2007.
WinInfo adds the much needed caveat that one of the reasons that Microsoft doesn't publish these internal schedules is because they tend to change a lot.
As for the new WinFS file system, which entered beta on Monday, it is indeed facing a long road of testing ahead. Microsoft officials said earlier this week that although some had not expected a beta version this year, the product is by no means ahead of schedule. The roadmap published by WinInfo echoes that, outlining at least four more interim releases before a final version comes out in the third quarter of 2007.
Even then, Microsoft says it will be an "out of band" release, meaning it won't be a part of Windows itself. Instead it will be something that can be added to the operating system, similar to the way Microsoft offers the .Net framework today.