Today marked a pretty significant release for Microsoft: Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 was made available to beta testers today. To clarify, Release Candidate means candidate for release, as in, "We think this version is so good it could be the final version, but before we ship it we want to do one final bug check." And I'm tempted to accuse Microsoft of forgetting that fact (oops, I think I just did). To be more specific, Windows Vista isn't set to ship until January (albeit somewhat earlier to OEMs), but here Microsoft has a Release Candidate already. Is it possible that Microsoft is that far ahead of schedule? Well... no. It's my opinion that Microsoft is just abusing the RC1 appellation, much like some companies increment version numbers at the drop of a hat, to make users, and more importantly investors and journalists, feel like a) Vista is actually making some progress, and b) if it's already up to RC1 in September, when it's finally released in January it's bound to be amazingly polished, stable, and secure. Now, for all I know, Vista really is "almost ready" and maybe when it does ship it will be amazing polished, stable, and secure. But forgive me for harboring a few doubts. Even the announcement at the Windows Vista Team Blog
seems to defy the Release Candidate label: "We're not done yet, however - quality will continue to improve. We'll keep plugging away on application compatibility, as well as fit and finish, until RTM [release to manufacturing]." Application compatibility is a good thing, but isn't that the sort of thing that should be taken care of before you start talking about releases?
Oh, well. Currently Windows Vista RC1 is only available to a closed group of testers, but it will be "made available to those of you outside those programs" soon.