Now Microsoft has to deliver

Developers have returned home from this month’s Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles with heads dizzy from the array of announcements and promises. Now the company just has to deliver as promised, and on schedule.

The conference was Microsoft’s first major developers confab since PDC 2003, and many of the broad strokes outlined then are just being filled in now.

The long delays in the development of the next Windows OS, formerly codenamed Longhorn and now identified with the more marketing-friendly moniker Vista, have been well documented. Microsoft researchers are already working away on the Windows OS to follow Vista, although no one I spoke to at Microsoft was willing to place bets on a over/under release date.

On the plus side, though, Vista’s delay means that if it does finally hit the market as scheduled in late 2006, many more users will have the hardware power to run the rich visualization tools Vista offers.

That should make hardware less of a barrier to enterprise adoption, but how quickly adoption will happen still remains to be seen. Canadian enterprise IT spending lags behind the U.S., making us an even harder sell.

Microsoft is making its pitch around productivity and much of what’s new in Vista and Office is visual, designed to make it easier to find features you didn’t know were there before. Will that be enough to convince enterprises to pull the trigger and invest in an upgrade?

Naturally, Microsoft said they’re expecting a rapid adoption for Vista, but they do appear to be hedging their bets. Tools like Office 12 and Windows Presentation Foundation will support older Windows versions, and WinFX, the programming model for Vista, will allow applications developed for Vista to be backward supported.

Just how quickly enterprises come on board will depend in no small part on the developers who attended PDC, and Microsoft sent them home happy with nearly 30 gigs of software, dubbed “the goods”: everything from betas and community technology previews of Windows Vista to Visual Studio 2005. To keep them happy, though, they’ve got to deliver the finished versions on time, as promised.

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