For Microsoft, 2006 Ends as a Sprint to the Finish Line

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-12-21 Print this article Print

While 2006 may have started off as a casual walk in the park for Microsoft, it ended as a sprint to the finish line as the software maker rushed to get Vista and Office out the door.

For Microsoft, 2006 may have started off as a casual walk in the park, but it ended as a sprint to the finish line. Over the year the company faced product delays and the resultant unhappy partner and developer ecosystems, as well as a change in leadership at the very top, with Bill Gates announcing his intention to spend more time working at his charitable foundation.
Is Microsoft ready for Gates transition? Click here to read more.
Jim Allchin, who has led Windows product development for the past 15 years, will retire as soon as Windows Vista ships to consumers, with Steven Sinofsky, who headed the Office team, given broad responsibility for planning future versions of Windows. The software maker also made some half-hearted attempts to be clearer about its software-as-a-service vision, which is being led by Ray Ozzie, Gates replacement as chief software architect. But Ozzie has been laying low for the past few months, with rumors and speculation about the future of that vision taking center stage while he and other Microsoft executives remain strangely quiet on that front. Read here about whether Windows and open source can learn to play nice. But, on the positive side, the company overcame potential issues with European competition law to get the green light to ship Vista in Europe at the same time as everywhere else. The Redmond, Wash., software company has also penned some significant deals, particularly with regard to working alongside competitors on product interoperability, as well as releasing Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 to its business customers with volume licenses. Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, says the most notable Microsoft milestone in 2006 was the deal it struck with Novell around interoperability and patent protection. "By visibly changing tactics, Microsoft caught the open-source software crowd off guard, while enhancing their own image in the process," he told eWEEK. Click here to read about Microsoft handing out subscription certificates for SUSE Linux. Another notable milestone of the past year was getting Vista released to manufacturing. The product appeared "badly stuck midyear, and each release candidate seemed months away from being ready," Enderle said. "Then the RTM version came out stable and in good shape for market." The effort to take a product that was "on life support" and turn it into something that was actually ready for market "almost seems super-human given how far the product came in the last three months," he said. Michael Cherry, the lead analyst for Microsoft at research firm Directions On Microsoft, agrees that the companys most notable achievement in 2006 was the shipping of new versions of its flagship Windows and Office products. "It has been some time since the latest update, depending of course, on how you define Windows XP Service Pack 2. Vista also has some interesting features, like User Account Control and BitLocker Drive Encryption," he told eWEEK. That being said, Vista was also one of Microsofts biggest failures for the year, according to Enderle—because it reminded hardware manufacturers "just how dependent they were on Microsoft and started them talking about finding alternatives to create the same dynamic they created with AMD [Advanced Micro Devices] to correct a similar problem with Intel." Next Page: Microsofts poor image.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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