The software giant has announced the release of Windows Server 2008 Release Candidate 0.
Microsoft is trying to soften the impact of the late arrival of Windows Server 2008 on its larger business customers by shifting from its usual practice in numbering the versions of its release candidates. The first version for Windows Server 2008 won't be Release Candidate 1, but Release Candidate 0.
According to the company, the reason for the move is straightforward: after three betas, Windows Server 2008 has all the features that it needs, but the product itself is not quite ready for release-candidate status.
"It is feature-complete but not far enough along in the development process to be called RC1," a Microsoft spokesperson said.
"Customers have been playing with it since April," said Windows Server product manager Gareth Hall. "There have been over 800,000 downloads."
According to Hall, the reason for bringing out the unusual RC0 release is that, while customers have been able to download and play with individual parts of Windows Server 2008, they really have been waiting to see the product as one. "They want to test out scenarios, and they can with RC0," Hall said.
But there will be at least one advantage of the move to RC0, he added. "It is feature-complete, and that includes the virtualisation features and the new hypervisor. Now customers get a chance to try that out."
Windows Server 2008 has already been delayed for some months, with Microsoft breaking the news in August that, instead of being launched as a full product this year, it will now not be launched until 2008.
The company maintained in August that the "first priority is to deliver a great product to our customers". It said that, while it was happy with the overall quality of the product's build, it would like to "spend a little more time to meet the high quality bar that our customers and partners deserve and expect". That same message is now being repeated with the RC0 announcement.
Colin Barker reported from London for ZDNet UK