Wondering what

Fortunately for enterprise IT managers and end users, the announcement last month from Microsoft that changes have been made to the release schedule for its forthcoming Vista operating system will not have much of an effect on them. At least not yet.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software powerhouse made its expected capitulation statement pretty much on schedule with what now-jaded observers had expected. The release date for the consumer version of Vista preinstalled on PCs has been pushed back to the beginning of 2007. The business version of the OS will be shipped to resellers on time, says Microsoft, meaning that it will be available for the expected release date of late 2006.

The news, taken on its own, is no cause for alarm for enterprise shops eagerly awaiting the latest iteration of Microsoft’s platform. When it is put into the context of Microsoft’s past performance of meeting delivery dates for previous operating system versions, however, business users might be feeling a little skittish about the still-promised late-2006 enterprise release date.

The adage “Once bitten, twice shy” comes to mind at this point, except in this case it should really read, “Many times bitten, extremely cynical”. With previous Microsoft delays fresh in their minds, most IS personnel would have reacted to last month’s news with a shrug and perhaps an expectation that similar news around the business edition might not be too far down the road.

Even that worry mostlikely would not have been a very large one, however. Most shops are well aware of the firm’s poor track record in delivering on announced target dates. As a result, they have incorporated some sort of delay into their rollout plans and have been working with the beta version in order to be ready for Vista when it arrives.

There is still a very good chance that Microsoft will come through on its reseller edition deadline. But with so much time between now and the end of the year, it’s hard for enterprise folk to not be a little skeptical. Last month’s news of a consumer delay certainly didn’t help.

Microsoft claims, as it has when announcing previous delays, that it will not sacrifice quality for the sake of meeting a target release date. This always sounds noble, with visions of cloistered programmers working around the clock in an effort to make the product just right. After how many delay announcements, however, will users begin to wonder if Microsoft is really concerned about perfection or just plain bad at making predictions?

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