Microsoft won't release a near-final test version of Windows Vista next month as anticipated, but the next version of the company's flagship operating system is still on schedule, an executive said yesterday.

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Microsoft won’t release a near-final test version of Windows Vista next month as anticipated, but the next version of the company’s flagship operating system is still on schedule, an executive said yesterday.


The next “beta” test version of Vista will be released early next year, and the final product will go on sale in the second half of the year, Vice President Amitabh Srivastava said during a conference call updating journalists and analysts on the project.


A key milestone will come late next month, when the company expects to finalize the features that will be included in Vista.


Microsoft is facing tough deadlines, but there’s no apparent crisis with Vista’s progress, said Michael Cherry at the Directions on Microsoft research firm in Kirkland.


“I think they’re just struggling to try to get information out about where they are,” he said. “There have been some concerns lately about whether they can complete the work in the time frame that’s available to them.”


Microsoft


OneCare Live


can be tried out


Microsoft said it will release today a test version of Windows OneCare Live.


The service, available at ideas.live.com, will offer anti-virus and firewall features and the ability to backup and restore. Not yet available, but coming soon, is anti-spyware protection, the company said. The test version of the service is free, but the final version, expected sometime next year, will be a paid subscription.

Hogue Cellars

Constellation


may raise offer


Constellation Brands, the world’s largest winemaker, said Tuesday that it is willing to raise its bid for Vincor — parent of Prosser-based Hogue Cellars winery — to $29.94 a share provided the company stops opposing the transaction.


New York-based Constellation, maker of Robert Mondavi and Opus One wines, said it is willing to pay as much as $1 billion, or $29.94 a share, for Vincor if the company opens its books and the board endorses the deal.


Monday, Constellation raised its offer to $28.23 a share from $26.52. Vincor rejected the increased bid just hours after Constellation made the offer, saying the price “falls short.” Constellation Chief Executive Richard Sands wants to combine his company with Vincor, Canada’s biggest winemaker, to gain shelf space and bargaining power with distributors


Jobster

Ex-Loudeye exec


hired as CFO


Jobster, a Seattle-based online recruiting service, said Tuesday it has hired Ron Stevens as its chief financial officer starting Dec. 1. Earlier this month, Stevens resigned as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer at Loudeye, a Seattle digital-music company. He has held similar positions at Primus Knowledge Solutions.


Compiled from Seattle Times staff and Bloomberg News