Is Microsoft Vista Farther Out on the Horizon?

Gartner has delivered a whammy to Microsoft that could dampen its efforts to reposition itself as a media-centric platform.

The consulting firm released a note suggesting that Microsoft is not on track to make Windows Vista broadly available until at least Q2 2007 — some nine to 12 months after Beta 2 and well after Microsoft’s announced shipping date.

Deny, Deny, Deny

Microsoft has been quick to deny the validity of Gartner’s report.

The software giant insists that it remains on track to deliver Windows Vista Beta 2 this quarter and to deliver the final product to volume license customers in November 2006 and to other businesses and consumers in January 2007.

Judging who is correct is a difficult call. Microsoft is not known for strict adherence to product release time lines. As Gartner could not resist noting, Microsoft “consistently misses target dates for major operating systems releases.”

Also, Microsoft recently announced it would have to delay the consumer version of Windows Vista until January 2007 — missing the all-important holiday season — another point supporting Gartner’s projection.

The Importance of Vista

On the other hand, unlike Windows 2000, Microsoft has a great deal riding on Vista.

“Microsoft has been quoted as saying they view Vista as the most important OS release since Windows 95,” Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT Research told TechNewsWorld.

Vista is clearly central to Microsoft’s repositioning as a media platform. “You can tell just by the features that have been trimmed back from Vista over the last couple of years,” King said. “Microsoft is not as vested in providing office and productivity software anymore. Any features that have been dropped from Vista have been aimed at the business user.”

Microsoft also has its partners to consider — although, again, its track record is not completely stellar in this regard.

However, King pointed out that PC vendors such as Intel are counting on having a 64-bit OS for their own product rollouts this year and next.

“Any slippage in the Vista release has ramifications well beyond just Redmond,” he commented.

Remember When?

Gartner does not appear to be much impressed by such arguments; the firm is warning companies not to rely too heavily on precise shipping dates.

It points to Windows 95 — the last significant re-engineering of Microsoft’s Windows OS — as a reminder of how far back in schedule Microsoft can slide.

The testing phase between beta 2 and the manufacturing phase took much longer than anticipated for that release — some 16 months.

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