Vistas Delay Is Tough Love

Opinion: Wouldn't you rather have an operating system that meets your quality, compatibility, performance and security expectations rather than one that merely ships on time?

In what were assured isnt a bid for lifetime tenure, Windows boss Jim Allchin "enjoyed" a crow lunch on March 21, announcing that the most important version of Windows Vista will miss its most important deadline.

No, Virginia, there wont be Windows Vista under the Christmas tree—unless, of course, that tree is in the office.

Or maybe I can save Virginia from holiday disappointment, but Ill get to that idea in a moment. First the news:

Allchin told reporters that the consumer version of Vista wont ship until January 2007, missing holiday buyers.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about the Vista delay.

The business version, however, will ship in November, though whether anyone will notice remains to be seen.

Microsoft is much better at force-feeding a new OS to consumers than to businesses.

A cynic might think that since few companies will immediately buy the business version, it matters little whether it ships in November, January, or sometime later, after consumers have been Vista "guinea pigs" for a while.

At the risk of splitting hairs, it should be pointed out that unless there are further delays, the November ship date will still make good on Microsofts 2006 ship date promise.

If that happens, Microsoft will be like the football team that loses the game, but still beats what gamblers call "the spread."

Like the football team, Microsofts "victory" will be a technical one. Real people, however, will remember the real loss.

Allchin, whod set a December retirement date based on the expectation that his latest OS baby would be out the door by then, announced March 21 hed stay on to see the project through.

Many people are going to pillory Microsoft generally and Allchin in particular for the delay.

But wouldnt you rather have an operating system that meets your quality, compatibility, performance and security expectations rather than one that merely ships on time?

Youll remember the latter is how we ended up with the brain-damaged Windows ME, something sensible people never want to see happen again.

We dont need a new operating system; we need an improved operating system.

Windows XP is a fine OS, and it makes no sense to upgrade to an operating system that isnt ready.

Allchin is holding Vista to a higher standard than any previous MS operating system. My bet is that if consumer Vista absolutely, positively had to ship for the holidays that it could, with additional features and changes included in a very early service pack.

In a previous column, I wondered aloud whether consumer Vista would ship in time for the holidays, but the business release be held until after the first of the year. Guess I got that backwards, huh?

Still, Id much rather have Allchin announce a delay than ship Vista before it is ready. That isnt a sign of weakness or screwing up. To me, its a sign of strength.

Even with the delay, what Ive seen of the Vista betas remains worth waiting for.

As for my plan to "save" the holidays, what if the first PCs to ship with "business" Vista in November were to come with a free upgrade to "consumer" Vista when it ships?

I am expecting to see lots of "buy now, upgrade for free" offers, though nothing official has been said. So, maybe there really will be Vista under the Christmas tree. Lets hope.

Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at

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