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Office 2007 is running late.

Microsoft officials acknowledged on June 29 that the company will not meet the October 2006 business-availability target to which it committed in March of this year. At that time, Microsoft officials said to expect retail availability of Office 2007 to be some time in January 2007, so as to coincide with the Windows Vista launch.

But on Thursday, Microsoft revised its schedule. Now Microsoft is promising that Office 2007 will be available to volume licensees “by the end of year 2006,” with retail availability in “early 2007.”

Company officials declined to provide further details. They also would not say whether the retail launch of Office 2007 is still on for January.

Earlier this week, when asked for an update on Vista availability, Microsoft officials said the delivery date had not slipped and that the product was still on track to go to volume licensees this fall, with the retail launch targeted for January 2007.

On June 29, a Vista spokeswoman reiterated: “The (Office 20007) announcement today does not impact Windows Vista timing.”

Developer and partner sources have been skeptical whether Microsoft can meet the Vista targets it outlined in March. Some said they were encouraged by the improvements in the latest Vista test build, Number 5456, which Microsoft released on June 23. But others said they were doubtful that Microsoft could make all the fixes required to release Vista to manufacturing this fall.

“If it (Vista) is delayed another month, they can still get it to OEMs to be out by January,” said one Windows tester, who requested anonymity. “If it is longer than that… well, they already missed the holiday season. I just want it to be rock solid, and if that means January – March 2007, well so be it.”

On the Office side of the business, Microsoft said more than 2.5 million testers downloaded the Beta 2 release of Office.

However, “based on internal testing and the beta 2 feedback around product performance, we are revising our development schedule to deliver the 2007 system release by the end of year 2006, with broad general availability in early 2007,” said Microsoft officials, via an e-mail statement issued on June 29. “Feedback on quality and performance will ultimately determine the exact dates.”

“At this time we have no additional details or information to share.,” company officials added in the e-mailed statement.

In March, Microsoft officials said they decided to delay the Office 2007 launch in order to deliver its two major new products – Vista and Office 2007 – in tandem.

“It is true that Microsoft has decided to coordinate with Windows Vista to hit retail store shelves in January 2007, but that’s a reflection of the desire to provide an easy purchasing process for consumers and a simplified selling opportunity for retailers,” said a company spokeswoman. “There is no slip in schedule, just a change in delivery for the benefit of consumers and retailers.”