Windows Vista Delay Will Impact Small Businesses

Microsoft said today that consumer versions of its next-generation version of Windows would not hit the market until January 2007, dashing plans that it would be on PCs for sale during the 2006 end-of-year holiday season. The delay is also expected to have an effect on small businesses that buy it retail or expects to get it with a new PC.

During a conference call today to detail the road map plans for Vista, however, Microsoft said it is on target to go into broad consumer beta to approximately two million users in the second quarter of 2006.

Jim Allchin, Microsoft’s outgoing co-president of Microsoft’s platforms and services division, stressed that Vista would be completed this year and available for businesses. “We decided to make it directly available in November via our volume licensing programming,” he said, with “broad consumer and PC availability in January, 2007.”

Some customers lined up to support the move, despite the fact that Vista will miss the 2006 delivery that had been promised by Microsoft.

“We strongly support Microsoft’s decision to prioritize quality in determining the schedule for Windows Vista,” said Todd Bradley, executive vice president of the Personal Systems Group at Hewlett Packard, in a statement.

“A January launch of Windows Vista allows us to execute in a consistent way throughout the holidays, and will provide the right opportunity for a large, exciting launch industry-wide after the New Year.”

But while Microsoft may have the public support of its partners, some analysts say there is undoubtedly disappointment. “Today’s delay will be a blow to many Microsoft partners,” Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox told
“They won’t have Windows Vista to sell during the holiday sales season or the benefits of the big marketing push. Microsoft finished Windows XP in August 2001 and launched in October. That’s what it takes to make the holidays.” (Jupiter Research is owned by the same company as

Allchin stressed Microsoft could have shipped the consumer version this year, albeit a few weeks late. But he said Microsoft anticipates a few weeks delay polishing security and other features, and because of that, certain retail and OEM partners asked to push the whole consumer release to January. The reason? Many retailers could face logistical problems with, for example, new PCs with Vista arriving at the height of holiday sales and having to accommodate for the sudden influx of new inventory. Also new PCs shipped from overseas might not arrive in time dashing holiday sales expectations.

“For quality we’re moving a few weeks out and that puts us in a bubble where that puts some of our partners in the industry at a disadvantage,” said Allchin. “We decided not to do that.” He said the January release will insure “a great out-of-box experience and get all our partners prepared at same time.”

Although Allchin characterized the January release for consumers, he conceded the delay also affects small business owners looking to adopt the new OS, basically anyone that buys it retail or expects to get it with a new PC. Microsoft is planning six different versions of Vista. He declined to say whether Microsoft might offer an upgrade voucher of some sort to Vista for those buying PCs this fall. “We’ll provide more details later,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if people end up saying once they see the next (test release) ‘Why didn’t you ship that, it’s good enough,'” said Allchin. “But we want to be sure we have the appropriate drivers ready and all the testing done. If I had to pick one aspect of the [delay] it’s because we’re trying to crank the security level higher than ever.”

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