Since it couldnt find a way to release Vista before the holidays, Microsoft is trying to beat the drum in advance of the scheduled January rollout. Its heading into overdrive with a road tour as well as a compatibility branding program for systems and peripherals.
While business customers will be able to run Vista in November, consumers will be able to pick and choose between devices and software that simply "work with" Vista or that are "certified for Windows Vista," which means that the product takes advantage of Vista in some unique way.
Certainly, expectations must be high for the testers in the Release Candidate program. And Microsoft said it expects that 10 times more seats of Vista will be deployed at launch than were with earlier flavors, with deployment within the first year being twice as quick as that for any other version.
But will there be some groundswell of consumer support for Vista? Will folks be lining up the night before, standing in the cold to be the first on their block with Redmonds next-generation operating system?
Does Microsoft somehow believe that it can pull the same reaction out of its installed base for an OS update as Apple does with its customers? There is little doubt that Mac OS X users will be lining up outside Apple stores next year when Leopard ships.
Based on customer expectations in my mailbox, no way. Microsoft expectations for an immediate win in the numbers game may be heading for disappointment.
According to Jeff Rankin-Lowe, author and professional photographer, the corporate IT managers, hard-core gamers and tech-heads make up a small but influential part of the potential market for computers (and thus Windows Vista). But Microsoft has done a "terrible job of marketing" Vista to the masses.
"Joe and Jane Average are a huge part of the user base, and MS hasnt convinced them that they need Vista. They think all [Vistas] visual razzle-dazzle is just that, and they see no need to pay lots of money for a new OS and a new computer with enough power for a hundred average people. ... All the extra bells and whistles of Vista—which is what they think its all about—will be seen as distractions and most people not only wont be interested, theyll avoid it," Rankin-Lowe said.
"Unless MS convinces Joe and Jane Average that Vista is much, much more than a pretty face, itll be a very hard thing to sell to them," he concluded.