We have to admit to occasionally sharing in some of the schadenfreude that surfaces on the internets every time Microsoft announces yet another Windows Vista delay. However, this time we're willing to cut them a little slack. While headlines have been screaming about a new delay all day today, most of them seem to be based on some fairly ambiguous comments by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Speaking with NEC execs in Japan, Ballmer commented that "We think we are on track for shipping early in . We've talked about the month, but we get a chance to critically assess all of the feedback we'll get from this beta release then confirm or move [the launch date] a few weeks." Ballmer also commented that he was looking forward to feedback from "hardware partners" about "when would they really like it." Now, a cynical take on Ballmer's comments would be that he's using the recently announced second beta of Vista, along with possible requests from hardware vendors, as an excuse to set the stage for a forthcoming announcement that Vista will indeed be delayed beyond January 2007. However, we'll look at the glass as half-full this time: Ballmer is truly interested in hearing from the beta testers and computer manufacturers, and really wants to factor their findings and needs into Vista's launch date. Besides, the thing is so late already; what's a few more weeks between friends, right?