Vista release pushed back

While it may be delaying the release of the consumer version of Windows Vista OS until January 2007, Microsoft is reassuring enterprise users that the corporate version will still be available by late November. What remains unclear, however, is if existing corporate PCs will have the horsepower for the early adopters to make full use of it.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software company made headlines last month when it announced Vista would miss the Christmas PC buying season, and won’t hit store shelves until the New Year. However, because of more efficient distribution channels, Microsoft said, the corporate edition will be available to businesses through Microsoft’s volume licensing program in November.

Elliot Katz, senior product manager, Windows client for Microsoft Canada, said the company realized it wouldn’t be able to release a product that met its expectations within the original time frame. After consulting with partners, retailers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Katz said Microsoft decided it didn’t “have the runway” to get Vista into stores before Christmas.

“The Christmas period is a very important period, but we felt, along with our partners, that it was appropriate to make sure we’ve got the best quality product,” said Katz. “It was a difficult decision, but we’re always driven by the quality issue.”

Katz emphasized the delay won’t impact business. He said the time to manufacture and box the software in quantity and push it out through the channel is why the consumer version won’t be available until the New Year.

While computer manufacturers will be upset at missing the Christmas blitz, Graham Jones, president of the Vancouver Technology User Group, said he doesn’t see the delay having much impact on the enterprise side. “I think people, if they’ve been awake at all, have known that [November was] probably when it was going to be available,” said Jones.

Microsoft may take a temporary public relations hit, but Jones said people sometimes forget Vista has already been delayed several times already. “Microsoft being Microsoft, they’re not going to make any apologies,” said Jones. “Their fiscal year runs July to July…their main interest is what it does in their fiscal year, rather than what (it does) to the hardware people.”

An analyst with Gartner added this most recent delay shouldn’t impact enterprise customers. “It will take them 18 months for testing and planning before they can start deploying Windows Vista anyway,” said Michael Silver. “Companies should have been planning for 2008.”

Hardware may prove to be another roadblock to speedy Vista adoption. It is unclear how Vista will perform on older hardware because Microsoft hasn’t revealed the minimum hardware requirements for running the client OS. But currently published guidelines for Vista hardware configurations indicate that customers likely will be forced into a hardware upgrade.

“I challenge you to purchase a machine today that will ultimately or optimally exploit Vista,” said Michael Cherry, an analyst for Directions on Microsoft.

Historically, Microsoft releases hardware requirements a month or two before a new product ships. The current Vista guidelines for beta testers call for hardware with a “Designed for Windows XP” logo, 512MB of RAM and a DirectX 9 class graphics processor unit (GPU).

To get the full Vista experience, users will need a GPU that supports the Windows Display Driver Model. Without it, users will see only a “Windows XP-comparable desktop graphics experience,” according to Microsoft.

It’s likely that the new hardware requirements will force Windows 2000 Professional users, the group that Microsoft sees as the most obvious upgrade candidates, to purchase new hardware.

“Vista is not like Windows 2000 or XP, where you could swing with old hardware and get away with it,” said John Kretz, president of system integrator Enlightened Point Consulting Group in Phoenix.

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— with files from IDG News Service

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