Delaying Vista's Ship Date Makes Sense, Says Analyst - InformationWeek
07:26 PM

Delaying Vista's Ship Date Makes Sense, Says Analyst

One industry watcher had been expecting a delay because it was only three weeks ago that Microsoft released a feature-complete beta. Based on past experience, it would take at least six months--meaning late August--before the operating system was ready to ship to PC makers--too late to make the crucial holiday selling season.

Microsoft made the right decision when it postponed Vista, an analyst said Tuesday.

"It would have been a very tight squeeze," said Rob Helm, director of research at Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft. "If they were going to miss Christmas, there just wasn’t a good reason to push it for 2006."

Directions on Microsoft, said Helm, had been anticipating a delay because of Microsoft's timeline. It was only three weeks ago that the Redmond, Wash. developer released a feature-complete beta, and based on past experience, it would take at least six months -- meaning late August -- before the operating system was ready to ship to PC makers. That was too late for OEMs to make the crucial holiday selling season.

"It's not a big shock that they're doing this," Helm said, "but it will have some impact. Not a horrific impact -- they were already going to miss back-to-school and Christmas -- but it will depress sales of PCs even more, and for a couple more months than originally."

Earlier in March, research firm Gartner projected that PC sales would slow significantly in 2006, but denied that Vista's release -- late in 2006 until Tuesday -- would play a part in that slowdown.

On the enterprise side, Microsoft's promise to put Vista into the volume licensing channel softens the impact to businesses, said Helm. "Typically, volume license renewals pile up in December, at the end of the calendar year, and June, the end of Microsoft's fiscal year. But with it RTMing [release to manufacturing] before the end of the year, those companies won't miss the Vista boat.

"So I don't see it as that big an issue."

He also agreed with Jim Allchin, co-president for the Platforms and Services Division at Microsoft, who when he announced the delay cited quality issues as one reason to hold Vista.

"I think it's a good decision. They can't afford to cut any more features to make a 2006 date," Helm argued. "The features that need the most testing, frankly, are enterprise features related to the core of the product, like user account control and how it will lock down services to make them less vulnerable to a worm. Things like that fundamentally change the way Windows works, and they couldn't really back out of them."

Microsoft has come under criticism when it's announced it was dropping long-touted features to expedite development. In 2004, for instance, it pushed a new file system, dubbed WinFS, out of the OS.

"This isn't Windows XP," Helm said. "Microsoft's made some pretty fundamental improvements to the operating system that they need time to test.

"They could have released Home separate from Business, but I think this was the reasonable decision. And I think the impact for enterprises will be relatively minor."

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