Helene Love Snell, a senior product manager on the Server 2008 team, broke the news on the group’s blog. “This seems like the best place to let you know that Windows Server 2008, which we have been saying would Release to Manufacturing (RTM) by the end of the calendar year, is now slated to RTM in the first quarter of calendar year 2008,” she said.

Snell gave no specific reason for the delay, only citing a desire for more time. “While we’re very happy with the feedback we’re getting and the overall quality of the latest product builds, we would rather spend a little more time to meet the high quality bar that our customers and partners deserve and expect,” she added.

Microsoft had stuck with the fourth quarter 2007 RTM as recently as last month, when it announced a Feb. 27, 2008 launch for the OS. Even though its official debut wouldn’t take place until deep into the first quarter of next year, Server 2008 would be out before the end of 2007, Microsoft said then.

“I’m not convinced that this is such a big delay,” said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. “Just like Vista last year, even when they said it would be available to business late in the year, everyone knew no one was going to look at it until January,” Cherry said. “I think they’re doing the right [thing] by tying up [Windows Server 2008] now.”

The RTM delay won’t affect the big splash Microsoft still has scheduled for late February, Snell said. The Los Angeles launch event will feature Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008, as well as Windows Server 2008.

But when the software does ship, Cherry expects uptake to be swifter than Vista’s. “The machines that need to be changed are under the control of IT.” Another reason: logistics. “While clients may number in the hundreds, servers may number only in the tens,” he said.

“Plus, I think IT is just much more comfortable with the changes in Server 2008. As IT, I don’t care how much they improve Movie Maker in Vista, but I do care when they improve Server.”

Like its client cousin, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 has racked up more than one delay. A year ago, when it was still dubbed Longhorn Server, and beta 2 had just reached testers, RTM was pegged to the six-month stretch between July and December 2007.

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