Hasta La Vista, Baby

Microsoft's delay of operating system rocks the boat for enterprise upgrades.

The unthinkable has happened: Microsoft has delayed Windows Vista yet again. Office 2007s release date also slipped, from 2006 to 2007.

Jim Allchin, co-president of Microsofts Platforms & Services Division, announced March 21 that Microsoft will roll out Vista in two stages. The business, volume-licensed version of Vista will now ship in November, as many expected. But the consumer version of Vista wont be ready until January 2007.

On March 23, Microsoft restructured its Windows teams and put Steven Sinofsky, head of Microsoft Office development, in charge. (For full coverage, see go.eWEEK.com/vista.)

Heres eWEEKs crib sheet on Vista and what the delay means to the enterprise:

Will this slow Vista adoption rates in the enterprise?

probably not, according to several IT managers. Most businesses had no intentions of jumping onto the Vista bandwagon early.

"As compelling as some new features may be, we need to test compatibility with other applications and factor in training and resources required for planning and deploying the upgrade," in addition to timing it with releases such as Office, said Tom Miller, an eWEEK Corporate Partner and senior director of IT at FoxHollow Technologies, in Redwood City, Calif.

Indeed, corporations arent likely to move any more quickly to Vista than they did to Windows XP, which came out in 2001 but took several years to wind its way onto business desktops en masse. Many executives said they will begin testing Vista but wont upgrade until Microsoft releases the first Vista service pack to fix updates and bugs. —John G. Spooner

How will this affect Microsoft management?

Just days after Vista was delayed, Microsoft reshuffled its Platforms & Services Division. Notably, Microsoft replaced Allchin with Sinofsky.

The Sinofsky appointment will take effect when Allchin retires, which—as Microsoft announced last year—is timed to coincide with the completion of the Windows Vista release.

When Sinofsky, senior vice president of Office, takes over as head of Windows, the move will have a far-reaching impact. Sinofsky is credited with running a tight ship and sticking to internal and shipping deadlines, a characteristic Microsoft is hoping he will bring to the Windows development teams going forward. —Peter Galli

Is the PC upgrade cycle doomed?

PC makers will miss a key opportunity to sell for the holiday season. They had been counting on the Vista release to not only drive unit sales but also inspire purchases of high-end machines.

By delaying Vista, Microsoft is essentially daring consumers to blink when it comes to buying a new PC, said Steve Baker, an analyst at NPD Group, in Port Washington, N.Y. People may choose other items for holiday purchases, such as high-definition televisions, he said. Thus, companies that rely heavily on consumer PC sales, including Gateway, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, are all likely to be affected in some way.

Several PC makers said they will move ahead by ensuring that their machines are "Vista-capable." That means they will design the machines to be able to upgrade to the operating system, when it is made available, and advertise them as such. —John G. Spooner

Why was Vista really delayed?

Official reasons are overall quality issues, especially around security, drivers and performance. Another possible reason is Microsofts wish to appease marketing gurus as much as quality grunts.

In the days preceding the delay decision, Microsoft was faced with an internal deadline, said Brad Goldberg, general manager of Microsofts Windows Client Product Management team. Microsoft needed to give its partners a firm commitment on when it would deliver to them the final Vista bits. Rather than be sorry, Microsoft decided to play it safe and build some extra time into its testing and bug-fixing schedule, Goldberg said. —Mary Jo Foley

Whats the impact on the channel and ISVs?

Vars, integrators and system builders have grown accustomed to operating system release delays over the years. Some did express concern about potential sales delays, however.

Jake Esh, owner of Esh Computer Center, a VAR and system builder in Gap, Pa., said users who follow technology developments closely will likely delay planned PC purchases because of the Vista postponement. "It does delay sales," but those delays will affect no more than about 10 percent of his business, Esh said. —John Hazard